July/August 2013 - School Finance
June 21, 2013

Most budgets pass; unfair tax cap taking a toll

Author: Betsy Sandberg
Source: NYSUT United
voting booth
Caption:

Out of 676 school districts across the state, only three will be on contingency spending plans for the 2013-14 school year. For the second year in a row, nearly every school budget across the state passed.

The difficult reality: For the second year in a row, those budgets are bittersweet.

In Sachem on Long Island, the budget approved after the June 18 re-vote means no gifted and talented programs, no science research and far less support for students. It means more than 100 teacher layoffs and drastic increases to class sizes.

"This is no victory to those who worked hard to pass the May 21 budget, where 54 percent of voters agreed to a budget that included gifted and talented and science research programs, extracurricular clubs, and reasonable class sizes," said Sachem TA President John Troise.

That budget failed due to the state's property tax cap law that requires districts where the tax levy would increase by more than 2 percent to get 60 percent of voters to say yes.

Sachem was one of the 32 districts statewide where voters did not pass their school spending plans in May and one of 21 districts that got a majority of votes, but not quite the 60 percent supermajority.

NYSUT and its locals urged voters to support what students need for the future. Like Sachem, most districts cut to stay within their tax cap. Three districts, Manhasset and North Babylon on Long Island and Newcomb in the North Country, succeeded in piercing the cap on their second try.

Two districts, Remsen in Oneida County and Wilson in Niagara County, join Marlboro schools in Ulster County on a contingency budget. Those districts now face a zero percent budget and must keep property taxes at the current rate regardless of any increase in costs.