School budget vote, take two, in Tupper Lake

TUPPER LAKE – Residents of the Tupper Lake Central School District will get a chance to vote on the second version of the district’s 2013-14 budget Tuesday, after they defeated the first version of it in May.

The first budget would have needed 60 percent of the vote to pass, since it exceeded the state-imposed tax cap, increasing the tax levy over the current year’s by 8.35 percent. It didn’t even get 50 percent of the vote, though, with 685 voting against it and 512 voting to approve it.

The district’s administrative team has taken another hack at the budget and come up with a second version, which comes in a percentage point under the tax cap, so it would only need a simple majority of the vote to pass. It would increase the tax levy by $274,954, or 3.76 percent, to about $7.6 million.

This budget would get rid of seven instructional positions, including two layoffs and five that wouldn’t be filled after a resignation or retirement.

Administrator pay

The new budget includes a pay freeze for district Superintendent Seth McGowan, who made $130,732 in salary and $35,774 in benefits in the current school year and was slated to make $133,347 in salary and $41,327 in benefits in 2013-14. He took a freeze once before in the past, three years ago when the district laid off about a quarter of its instruction staff.

McGowan signed a letter of understanding earlier this month agreeing to no pay increase for 2013-14, but the agreement states that he will return to his originally agreed-to pay increase in following years. The school board agreed in January to give him a 2 percent salary increase for 2014-15.

McGowan also signed an addendum to his contract last week that extends it through the 2015-16 school year and will give him a 2 percent salary increase for that year and require him to contribute 100 percent of the premium increase on his health insurance coverage between 2011 and 2016.

The school board also signed contracts with new administrators – middle/high school Principal Matt Southwick and Director of Special Programs Petra LaBarge – agreeing to pay both $83,500 in 2013-14 and give each a 2 percent raise in the two following school years.

Teachers’ insurance

Teachers are also looking at ways to help alleviate the increases in their health insurance costs, according to a press release union co-President Aggie Pelletieri emailed to the Enterprise Friday.

“While no decisions have been made, both the Tupper Lake United Teachers leadership and the district are confident that some cost savings can be achieved in the coming months,” Pelletieri wrote.

Tupper Lake teacher contributions to health insurance have increased in recent years and will continue to, and the contribution is comparable to similar schools in the state, she wrote.

Bus proposition

Also in May, voters also turned down a proposition to buy two new school buses by a wide margin – 750-426 – but the same question will be back on the ballot Tuesday.

The district’s administrative team launched a public information campaign to convince voters that the bus program, which the district has been using for the last handful of years to recycle its buses, is worth the cost. The proposition asks voters to allow the district to spend a maximum of $230,500 on the two buses, but district Superintendent Seth McGowan explained at a recent school board meeting that the actual cost to the district, between the state aid that goes along with the program and the relatively good resale value the district gets for buses with it, the actual cost to the district would end up at about $59,000 over the next six years.

Voting is set to run from noon to 8 p.m. at the middle/high school. Anyone who has lived in the district, which covers Tupper Lake, Piercefield and part of Colton, for more than 30 days and is a U.S. citizen, is eligible to vote.

Contact Jessica Collier at 891-2600 ext. 26 or