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Newcomb Superintendent Skip Hults is struggling to find cuts that balance his school's budget while garnering enough political support in his tiny community. NCPR file photo
Newcomb Superintendent Skip Hults is struggling to find cuts that balance his school's budget while garnering enough political support in his tiny community. NCPR file photo

Newcomb school will ask voters again to bust tax cap

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Last week, four North Country school districts tried to buck the state's 2 percent property tax cap.

General Brown, Minerva, Newcomb and Tupper Lake all asked voters to approve spending increases that ranged from 7 percent as high as 24 percent. In every case, voters said no.

That means school administrators and boards of education are meeting, holding conversations with their communities -- trying to figure out how to maintain programs and services in their rural areas.

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Reported by

Brian Mann
Adirondack Bureau Chief

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Brian Mann checked in with Skip Hults, superintendent of schools in the tiny Newcomb district, which has a total k-12 enrollment of just over a hundred kids.

Newcomb Central School District cafeteria. Photo: NCPR file
Newcomb Central School District cafeteria. Photo: NCPR file
Hults says even after last week's vote — which failed to win a supermajority of voters — he doesn't think Newcomb will try to squeeze its budget under the tax cap.

"We also have heard back from the community, from many many people that no one is looking to go down below [the 2 percent cap]," Hults said. 

"What we have heard from by far most of the people is, 'Can you give us something in between.'"

But Hults acknowledged that his district is taking a risk by once again proposing a spending plan that will require a 60% vote. 

From left, Newcomb Central School Superintendent Skip Hults, Rep. Bill Owens, Senior Class Advisor Martha Swan, the senior class and School Board President Steve Frieman. Photo: Andy Flynn
From left, Newcomb Central School Superintendent Skip Hults, Rep. Bill Owens, Senior Class Advisor Martha Swan, the senior class and School Board President Steve Frieman. Photo: Andy Flynn
If the budget doesn't pass in a second vote in June, Newcomb would be forced to adopt a contingency budget, which implements strict austerity automatically.

"For us a continengcy budget means decreasing our expenses almost $900,000.  For a little district like ours, that would almost destroy our district," Hults said.

Hults said his district faces a crushing level of cost increases that local officials can't control, including rising healthcare and pension costs.

 

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