When Valley Central School District residents head to the polls on May 21 for the school board elections and the annual district budget vote, a referendum will also be on the ballot to decide whether or not a proposed Capital Reserve Fund for the district should be created. If established, the fund would have a maximum limit of $10 million over the course of 10 years that could be utilized to pay for capital infrastructure projects.
Voters must first approve the creation of the Capital Reserve Fund, then subsequently each time that the district proposes using money from the fund, the public would have to vote to expend the funds. Last year, the Wallkill School District created their own fund, and now Valley Central is looking to do the same, as the Board of Education approved the referendum 5-0 during its meeting on Feb. 25.
The money for the fund would come from the district’s reserve funds, if the fund is established. “I think most districts around us, Wallkill being one certainly, have gone to the voters for approval, which you have to have, to put up to a maximum of $10 million,” Valley Central Superintendent John Xanthis said. “At the end of the school year, sometimes you have funds available, and if you’re over that four percent in fund balance you’ll have a place to put some of this money. So then if you decide to do a project, and if it’s $25 million and the district’s part of it is a certain amount of money, you can use some of that to pay for that part of the referendum. So it’s a good thing to have as a rainy day fund, but it also gives you the ability to save some money and get projects done with the voters’ approval.”
During last Monday’s meeting, the board also unanimously approved a measure to increase the district’s Senior Citizen Tax Exemption for the first time in 24 years. To qualify for the exemption, residential property owners in the district must be at least 65 years of age or older. Under the adjusted table, homeowners with an annual income of $24,000 or less will receive a 50 percent reduction in the assessed valuation of their property, while residents in the $24,000 to $24,999 will see a 45 percent reduction.
The exemption also applies to homeowners in the ranges of $25,000 to $25,999 (40 percent); $26,000 to $26,999 (35 percent); $27,000 to $27,899 (30 percent); $27,900 to $28,799 (25 percent); $28,800 to $29,699 (20 percent); $29,700 to $30,599 (15 percent); $30,600 to $31,499 (10 percent) and $31,500 to $32,399 (five percent).
In a hearing held before the regularly scheduled school board meeting, some local seniors expressed the hope that the maximum income for the exemption would be raised higher. Walden resident Mary Ellen Matise noted that the Town of Montgomery offers a five percent reduction to seniors with an income up to $37,399. Before the changes were approved by the board, Valley Central previously offered a 10 percent exemption up to $23,999 in income, with no exemptions above $24,000.
The district changed the exemptions table for the first time since 1995 to bring themselves closer to current standards adopted by local districts. “I think it was well overdue,” Xanthis said. “It started last year. There were some people who had approached the board about taking a look at it, and I believe it was too late last year to do anything about it. So it was brought back this year, and the board seemed very interested in getting in line with the other districts in the county, which I think is more than fair.”
The board could still adjust the exemptions further in the future if they desire. “It’s going to where the majority of the districts are, which is still a little bit below the top district,” Xanthis said. “But we’re moving in the right direction.”
The board is expected to vote on a resolution during its next session on March 11 that could give the CSArch architectural firm the go-ahead to begin laying the groundwork for a possible public referendum project so that the district could renovate the High School-Middle School complex parking lot. Even if the resolution passes, no date would be set for a potential public referendum vote until after the May elections. “We’ll bring it back and approve it, and then they can start the process with SEQRA (State Environmental Quality Review) and the lead agency,” Xanthis explained. “Then we’ll see how we do at the election with the budget vote, and if things go well there I think we’d certainly recommend to the board to take a look about doing a referendum in maybe the early part of the summer.”