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Palisades budget proposal vies for 0.61 tax hike


As it closes in on the end of its annual nine-month budget process, the Palisades School District’s fiscal committee has recommended a 0.61 percent tax increase, the lowest in the last five years, to support the district’s budget for the 2019-2020 school year.

The full school board is to vote on the final budget at its June 5 public meeting.

The recommended increase was announced by board Treasurer David Haubert during his fiscal committee report at the May 15 public board meeting. He noted it would amount to an increase of 0.7 mills; bring the millage rate up to 115; and equate to a median annual increase of about $27.49 per district household.

After three years of no tax increase, the board passed increases the last four years of 0.82 percent, 0.90 percent, 0.94 percent, and 0.88 percent. During public comment sessions at the May 15 meeting, parents of elementary school students continued their sharp criticism of the squeeze on faculty and staff time that they say have been the price of minimizing the tax increases.

They are particularly concerned about the effect on library staffing, which they see as important to the development of reading skills. Among other comments, they urged the board to appeal to district municipalities for help in focusing more on attracting additional school-age families to the district, thereby broadening the tax base and supporting increased staffing. While the district has announced that a library-related retirement this year is to be replaced, the parents called on replacement of previous library-related retirements that were left to stand as attrition.

During the budget process this year and last, board members emphasized increased pressure on district expenses as especially deriving from increasing charter school costs. Those costs derive from public taxpayer support of the for-profit private schools, and are based on formulas the public school officials say are grossly unfair, while oversight of private school operations remains significantly lacking.

Public school officials have intensified their efforts for legislative reform, while key proposals, especially state Senate SB34, and a similar version in the House, HB526, continue to languish in committee. Meanwhile, some charter school reform proposals that have gotten out of committee have gained support from those officials, such as one that would require advertising for the charter schools to contain an announcement that the advertising costs are paid by taxpayer dollars.

But others, such as giving charter schools a right of first refusal on public school buildings no longer being used, have been criticized as shifting power away from the elected public school boards.