Second Tupper Lake school budget passes; bus proposition fails

TUPPER LAKE – The second version of the Tupper Lake Central School District’s 2013-14 budget passed today, but the district’s second try at a proposition to buy new buses failed again.

Voters approved the budget 561-488 in what was still a larger turnout than normal, though fewer than the nearly 1,200 people who came out to vote in May.

The first budget would have needed a 60 percent supermajority of the vote to pass since it would have exceeded the state-imposed tax cap, increasing the tax levy by 8.35 percent over that of the current school year.

After taxpayers voted that version down, 685-512, the district’s administration took another hack at the budget. They got rid of seven instructional positions, including two layoffs, and making cuts to things like extracurricular activities and all junior varsity sports.

The version of the budget that went to voters Tuesday was a full percentage point below the tax cap, increasing the tax levy by $274,954, or 3.76 percent, to about $7.6 million.

Voters went for that, but for a second time they turned down a proposition to buy two new buses, part of a bus recycling program that administrators tried to convince voters saves the district money in the long run. Residents of the district voted the proposition down, 561-475.

District Superintendent Seth McGowan said the numbers for the second budget vote ended up right where he expected them to.

“The results were about what we expected, just about 50 percent, but not much,” McGowan said. “We did what the taxpayers asked; we brought it down below the tax cap.

“I think people recognized that we’re doing as much as we possibly could within the restraints of the school district.”

In the past, he said, any time more than 1,000 voters turned out, the district ran the risk of the budget failing.

He said he didn’t understand voters turning down the bus proposition. He said the district will have to keep the same number of buses, but they will likely cost taxpayers more money in the long run.