Tuxedo School District receives $340,000 gift

Voters will be asked to approve the nearly identical $15.93 million budget on June 17

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  • George F. Baker High School in Tuxedo.

— An unexpected $340,000 education contribution by the developers of the Sterling Forest Resort - one of several area casinos projects being proposed by different groups - may encourage Tuxedo School District voters to approve the district's revised budget on June 17.

The second budget vote later this month follows the May 20 budget vote where only 23 more votes in favor of the district’s proposed $15.93 million budget were needed to adopt it.

60 percent approval needed
While voters approved the proposed budget by 177-156, or a 53 percent margin, it wasn’t good enough.

In any other year, that margin would be a welcome percentage to school district officials.

But because the proposed budget exceeded Tuxedo’s tax cap of 1.4 percent, a required a 60 percent voter approval was needed.

The first proposed budget’s increase was 4.5 percent.

Now, Tuxedo School District Superintendent Carol Lomascolo said, that "nonbinding, nonrefundable" gift allows the district to present essentially the same $15.93 million budget at the 1.4 percent tax cap.

"This donation has no strings attached, it was a purely educational donation regardless of what happens with Sterling Forest Resort," Lomascolo stressed.

The new $15,932,099 is $601 less than the one voters considered in May due to removing some technology funds, she said.

Tax Freeze Credits would kick in

Because the Tuxedo School District is now complying with the tax levy limit this year, district taxpayers qualify to receive a New York State Property Tax Freeze Credit for the 2014-2015 school year.

That means taxpayers will receive a rebate check from Albany equal to what the increase in their school tax bill would be over the previous year.

The Property Tax Freeze Credit rebate check will be the greater of the increase in the school tax from the 2013-2014 to 2014-2015 year, or 1.46 percent of the 2013-2014 tax bill.

The rebate check will essentially eliminate the tax increase property owners would see this year.

The budget still includes the elimination of 11 full-time equivalent positions and a variety of cuts.

And still within the new budget is the plan to continue the launch of the high school STEM Academy into the 10th grade and conversion charter school planning.

"I think this is a fiscally responsible budget both from a school district and a community perspective," Lomascolo said. "This is a solid budget."

And sometimes, Lomascolo acknowledged, the happenstance of unexpected relationships can bring good fortune.

From Harvard to the high school in Tuxedo

When officials of Genting - the Malaysian-based developer which sought town support to build the casino - visited Tuxedo to make presentations to town officials and community members about the project, one of its speakers noticed the high school's name was George F. Baker, Lomascolo said.

That was the same George F. Baker, the U.S. financier and philanthropist who has a library named after him at Harvard University, where that presenter graduated, she added. (Baker provided much of the initial funding for Harvard Business School with a 1924 grant for $5 million.)

The Tuxedo Town Board has since approved a resolution supporting Genting's casino project.

"Sometimes, coincidences mean something," Lomascolo said. "But, I do think they are interested in our STEM Academy, our proposed conversion charter school and the direction of the district. We are pioneering a new direction and they are interested in us being successful."

- Nancy Kriz

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