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New York State's new property tax cap impacts school budgets | News

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New York State's new property tax cap impacts school budgets
News, Politics, Schools
New York State's new property tax cap impacts school budgets

Suburban voters head to the polls Tuesday to decide on school budgets. For the first time, the state’s new property tax cap came into play. The two percent tax cap pushed by Governor Cuomo and passed by the legislature has forced some districts to make serious budget cuts. That includes teacher and staff layoffs.

But the permissible cap is different for each school district according to a complex formula. From 1.7% in Greece to 4.2% in Brighton, although Brighton was asking less than that. The countywide cap average of what districts are actually asking voters to approve is 2.2%.

Tax levy is all the money a school district can raise in property taxes and that’s what the subject to the cap. Only three suburban school districts are asking for an increase that’s at the cap. All the rest are lower.

Webster school officials say turnout here was good, although that's been the trend the last few years and may not have had anything to do with the new tax cap. Still, the cap was on some people's minds.

Jim & Nancy Peters, Webster School voters, said, “I think it's a good idea. It actually makes them think about how they're spending their money a little bit more critically.”

Marion Mancini, Webster School voter, said, “I worked in this building for 20 years. And all my kids went through here and, hey, whatever they need I'm happy to give them.”

Adele Bovard, Webster School Superintendent, said, “We’ve had tough budgets for the last three years.”

Webster School Superintendent Adele Bovard says it's been a challenge to live within the cap. And like many districts, Webster is drawing down its reserves.

Bovard said, “In Webster, we are spending down our reserve funds as revenue. We are in the second year of a five-year plan to spend reserves so that we can keep up our support for our programs for our kids.”

Jody Siegle speaks for all the school boards in Monroe County.

Jody Siegle, Monroe County School Boards Association, said, “School board members are taxpayers too. And they're very aware of the burden of taxes on people in the community. They want to be fair to their communities and not ask something from them that's unreasonable.”

Siegle says the rate of inflation is higher than two percent, and there are growing state mandated costs local districts have to pay for.

Siegle said, “You cannot expect districts and also towns and county governments to move indefinitely into the future and never be able to keep up with the simple cost of inflation.”

Siegle said, “Ultimately that will lead to a terrible erosion of services.”

60% of the voters in any district can override the cap, but that is not being asked of any voters in Monroe County. The old style lever handle voting machines were being used today. The Monroe County Board of Elections says school districts had a choice. Some like Webster felt the older machines would be more comfortable for voters. Fairport, Greece and Spencerport used the newer optical scan machines.

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