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Palisades will stick to state mandated budget limit


Continuing what has become an annual tradition, the Palisades School District has resolved to not increase any school district tax for the 2019-2020 school year that exceeds the state-mandated Act 1 Index.

For this budget cycle the index has been calculated by the Department of Education at 2.3 percent. The action was taken as a unanimous vote by the school board at the Dec. 19 public meeting.

The state index has been in that range for several years, while the district’s tax increases, after none for seven years, have been about 1 percent the last couple of years. Special efforts by the district’s school boards and their staffs, going back about 10 years, to plan special funding to cope with anticipated sharp increases in pension costs, have been credited with avoiding spike increases in tax rates that were instituted by many other school districts.

Draft budgets for different segments of Palisades expenses for 2019-2020, as well as total anticipated revenues, have already been prepared by the staff and reviewed by the board. The usual budget process is fully under way, including benchmark status reports and discussion at public board meetings during the coming months, toward passing a final budget by late spring.

While taking advantage of the special funding they have available to cope with the pension increases, board members have nevertheless long lobbied for reform of pension funding, through state legislative action, to remedy the crisis. They have also repeatedly called on the state legislature to also address reform of charter school funding and oversight.

On presenting their final budget for 2018-2019 last spring, officials emphasized sharp increases in charter school costs, which the district pays for resident students enrolled in those private schools, as the major factor in the 1 percent tax increase, while performance of those schools was rated as too often below par.

At the Dec. 19 meeting, during the board compliments and concerns session, board President Bob Musantry noted that no Palisades public schools were listed by the state Department of Education as needing Comprehensive Support and Improvement (CSI), or Additional Targeted Support and Improvement (A-TSI). However, he added, four cyber charter schools attended by district students were listed as CSI, and two were listed as A-TSI.

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