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Ithaca schools face critical uncertainty as state aid shrinks, cost to operate increases

The Ithaca City School District (ICSD) is facing a critical moment as it proposes a $170 million budget for the next school year, requiring at least 60% voter approval due to its increase beyond the state’s tax levy limit. The proposed 7.8% budget increase is driven by rising costs, including contractually obligated wage increases and the changing needs of students. ICSD Superintendent Luvelle Brown emphasized that the budget aims to support existing commitments without cutting programs or staff, despite facing reduced state and federal aid.


The budget’s approval is complicated by the need for a significant increase in local property taxes, making up 70.7% of the district’s operating expenses this year, an increase from last year’s 68.9%. With local property values rising, the district expects to collect an additional $13 million in tax revenue. However, surpassing the state’s tax levy limit means the budget cannot be adopted without substantial voter support.

The ICSD is also proposing three ballot propositions to address long-term financial planning and infrastructure needs, including the authorization to issue $125 million in bonds for capital projects and the purchase of electric and propane buses to begin transitioning to a zero-emission fleet. These measures, alongside the proposed budget, highlight the district’s efforts to manage financial challenges while prioritizing educational quality and sustainability.