I went to a panel discussion yesterday. Did I go to learn anything? I was hopeful but was also doubtful but I did learn something. I had not really thought this through before so want to put it out there for everyone – those who were at the panel and those who were not.
There was some question if natural gas would be the savior for local school districts who are running into difficult financial straits due to the tax levy limitation put into law last year in NYS. I always thought that gas drilling might help but here is what I learned.
Most gas drilling or compression stations or such are additions to the property tax rolls. Jason Andrews, the superintendent of Windsor Central Schools, spoke about a $30 million dollar compressing station built within his district. This means that the tax levy – what you vote on when you vote on a school district’s budget in NYS – is spread out over a larger taxable base. The individual property owner will see taxes possibly fall due to this. Unfortunately, the school district still has a legal limitation on how much it can raise the tax levy – the commonly called 2% tax cap.
Unfortunately, New Yorkers are finding out that the tax cap does not mean that an individual property owner will not see more than a 2% increase in taxes. Number one, the cap is on the levy that the district can impose. individual property taxes are figured by your district or municipality’s levy, the valuation of your property and an equalization rate.
Number two, the cap is actually a multi-step formula that has exemptions. In some cases a district may be under the limit and be able to raise the levy 5%. In other cases a district may be over the limit and only be able to raise the levy 1%.
So what is my point in writing this? I want NYers to know that there is no silver bullet fix for problems school districts are starting to face. The state legislature and the State Education Department continue to make laws and regulations that districts must follow. Most of these cost money. Money is not given to pay for these “mandates.” The districts must work within the tax levy limitations of law. The only way to make ends meet in many districts is going to be to cut programs.
Do you live in NY? Do you participate in your local school district’s budget process?
The opinions expressed here are my own. They are not the opinions of any school district within NYS. Nor are the the opinions of the Board of Education of which I am a member.