There is no “2 percent tax cap” that applies to school districts in New York.

The property tax cap law created last June does restrict how much school districts may increase the tax levy. To go above the cap, a school needs at least 60 percent of voters to approve the budget, instead of a simple majority vote.

But what percent the cap actually is depends upon circumstances specific to each district, and is likely to change each year.

At Queensbury, the school district can raise the tax levy for the 2012-13 school year by up to 4.23 percent.

Hudson Falls can go up to 7.1 percent, while in Hartford, the maximum is 11.6 percent.

Meanwhile, the tax cap for Stillwater this coming year is below zero — negative 4.5 percent.

The Stillwater tax cap illustrates how drastically the figure can fluctuate, depending upon how the formula plays out.

Stillwater is expected to receive a $648,500 increase in property tax payments from GlobalFoundries, making the 2012-13 tax levy lower than in 2011-12 and leading to the negative cap.

District officials plan on seeking a super-majority vote to override the cap.

So there is no 2 percent tax cap, at least for school districts, although that is how the rule was described when lawmakers created the regulation.

Now school district leaders across the state are trying to explain the property tax cap law to taxpayers and some worry if they propose tax increases beyond 2 percent, voters will think they’re disobeying the law.

“I think it’s confusing for people because every district is going to be different,” said Douglas Huntley, superintendent at Queensbury. “I think it’s confusing for people, because when it was originally introduced, it was introduced as a 2 percent tax cap and it’s not. Some people will have a 2 percent tax cap in mind, but districts will go out with a maximum allowable levy increase greater than 2 percent.”

The state created a formula that districts must use to determine their maximum tax levy increase, or tax cap.

For the calculation, various numbers are plugged in, such as the district’s prior year tax levy, revenue it received from payments in lieu of taxes, and increases in the full value of taxable real property in a district.

The law also allows districts to raise taxes by a certain amount to pay for expenses such as voter-approved construction projects, certain increases in pensions, and court orders and judgments.

Once these exclusions are added to the formula, a district has its “maximum allowable tax levy,” which can pass as part of the budget with a simple majority vote.

The formula is complicated, and superintendents and business officials have been attending seminars with state officials and other experts to figure it out.

But even though the law allows some districts to raise the tax levy well beyond 2 percent, some are reluctant to do it.

The caps in districts such as Hartford are so high they would probably be voted down if they were proposed.

“It’s no way it’s going that high,” said Thomas Abraham, superintendent at Hartford.

While Hartford can go up to 11.6 percent, district officials are recommending a 3.8 percent tax levy increase.

At Ticonderoga, the maximum, as of now, is 9.44 percent. But officials have no desire to propose a tax hike that high.

“We are not going with a 9.44. That is not the goal,” said Laurie Cossey, the district’s business manager.

Each district has to calculate its maximum allowable tax levy and report it to the state by March 1. But no district is required to propose a tax levy that goes up to the maximum.

The current figures could change, however, as school districts are still waiting on information from the state necessary to calculate the most precise maximum allowable tax levy.

Even if it changes, what taxpayers have to look for is the proposed tax levy that will be before them in May.

Some area districts will propose budgets with tax increases at the maximum allowed with a simple majority vote. But most will not attempt to exceed the cap.

“We are definitely not going to exceed the allowable limit. The closer we can get to 2 percent, the better everyone will feel about it,” said Mark Brand, superintendent at Indian Lake, where the cap is 3.9 percent.

The risks are high for districts that want to jump the cap. Unlike before, districts must keep the tax levy flat if they adopt a contingency budget. Achieving that would likely require significant cuts.

A contingency budget is adopted when the budget is voted down twice. School boards can also choose to adopt a contingency budget after a budget is defeated once.

The tax cap was created in response to New Yorkers demanding tax relief. But it has put districts in a bind.

Property taxes and state aid are major revenue sources for districts. But taxes are capped and state aid has not been enough to cover increases in pensions, health benefits and salaries. As a result, districts have cut jobs and programs.

While some districts have money in reserves, others don’t, and some districts are on course to become insolvent in a few years.

“Generally speaking, the tax cap, maybe not this year, but going forward, will put in place a restriction because on the expense side, there is no cap,” said Ronald Black, the business manager at Argyle.

(22) comments

nomore
nomore

"because on the expense side, there is no cap,” said Ronald Black, the business manager at Argyle.

Maybe Argyle needs a new business manager. Spend some time in the real business world and learn how to control expenses. It is precisely that attitude that got you into this mess. There is only so much the taxpayers can take.

privatesector
privatesector


"Property taxes and state aid are major revenue sources for districts. But taxes are capped and state aid has not been enough to cover increases in pensions, health benefits and salaries. As a result, districts have cut jobs and programs."

Maybe we should "put a cap" on the pensions, health benefits and salaries then.....

Idoknow
Idoknow

Some people are going to be surprised and disappointed when they have to pay more than a 2% rise in school taxes. Now maybe they will TAKE THE TIME AND VOTE.

woodchuck2
woodchuck2

You can thank the yahoo's at "unshackle NYS" on facebook for this nonsense. You see, in some parts of the state school taxes are part of and collected with the land tax so these fools though pushing a 2% tax cap would be the cure all. WRONG!!!!! If you have a problem with your school taxes then go to the school board meetings and fight it, you do not give the power to the State for control of your land and school taxes. Taxpayers should take control at the local level! Now with State cutbacks including State funding the schools are looking to cut back programs. Do not go blaming this all on teachers either. There are other ways for schools to cut back on expenses but no one seems to look into these avenues. Instead teachers get hammered 1st over jealousy by society.

Abraham
Abraham

Tax cap is an idea that is 25 years too late. Two percent cap of excessive spending is still excessive.

grannypop
grannypop

My grandKids are in a district that WORKS! Oddly we are in the TOP 3 in the area beating out Saratoga. We are very rural w no industry- and folks that is why we live here. No strip malls, no trFfic circles, not much but honest living. We want to keep it this way- discussion to merge our school because " we are on a train with the bridge out" No! Offer us a balanced budget that shows forsight and no scaremongering and it we will vote to raise our taxes! Cambridge is a unique scho we don't want to be homoginized! Let Salem- & greenwhich do their own thing. Keep our school - small and rural because it is a wonderful place to learn

loneoak
loneoak

The 2% tax cap was the carrot to allow the local towns to excessivly raise assessments of property prior to passing the bill. It's the bait and switch, they propose the 2% and the towns then raise the assessments in many cases over 100%, they pass the 2%, look like heros and lied to you all the way to the bank to spend more of your money. This is classic politics make it sound good but it really is not what it appears.

privatesector
privatesector

Maybe the reason "teachers get slammed" is that their saleries, pensions, and benefits by far take up the brunt of the budget. When non-teacher folks are looking at unemployemnt, underemployment, no raises, no or high cost health benefits and non existant pensions..all of which have been implemented by employers to cut costs and retain jobs...is it jealousy? Not exactly the word I would use...maybe incongruous is better. And dont tell me about their masters degrees...a masters in education isn't exactly rocket science.

Lgraz5
Lgraz5

Another slick move by NYS politicians who want to LOOK LIKE they are helping people but who are actually thinking up new and improved ways of fleecing them. Taxpayers need to get more invovlved in the process and take back control of their tax dollars. You can't trust politicians (even at the school board level) to look after your interests.

Idoknow
Idoknow

"The Tax Cap Rap"

I'm polishing my fingertips typing this idea.
This may help to stop pink slips from going out next year.

Benefits are the chopping choice to get some cost controls.
Voting really is your voice, so speak it at the polls.

Salary caps are that idea, that no one seems to like.
This what what you'll have to hear, with every new tax hike.

cutwaste
cutwaste

Teachers have very generous pension plans , compliments of the foolish, uninformed and overtaxed citizens. Good teachers are underpaid and bad teachers are way overpaid. Consolidation of school districts will add efficiency into the system. The top administration gets too big a slice of the whole pie. It does not make sense for every little town to have a superintendent with a full staff.

Idoknow
Idoknow

"The Tax Cap Rap"

I'm polishing my fingertips, typing this idea.
This may help to stop pink slips, from going out next year.

Benefits are the chopping choice to get some cost controls.
Voting really is your voice, so speak up at the polls.

Salary caps, are that idea that no one seems to like.
This is what you'll have to hear, with every new tax hike.

DWC121
DWC121

Too bad schools don't send tax bills only to families with students in school (Maybe it wouldn't be considered a PUBLIC school then). Families pay tuition at private schools, so why not extend that idea to public schools. Base it on your property's worth AND how many kids YOU have in school.

Municipalities can file for bankruptcy (some have over the years). I wish some school districts would. THEN you’d see the you know what hit the fan.

Before I typed the above comments, I was wondering, does anyone know what the retirement and health benefits are for private school employees? Private schools seem to keep their cost to income ratio in check better than public schools.

workin'man
workin'man

[quote]DWC121 said: "Too bad schools don't send tax bills only to families with students in school

I agree and while we are at it: I dont break the law so why should I have to pay for the State Police, I have 4 wheel drive so why should I have to pay for the higway dept, I am young why should I pay into social security, I have smoke detectors I should not have to pay for the firemen, I like peace why should I have to pay for the military, ............

rdc
rdc

Maybe all taxpayers should pay a school tax but taxpayers with children should pay more for each child they enroll. We profess to be a free market society, why not let the market dictate school population? Maybe all kids aren't school material - parents can decide who belongs in and who belongs in plumber school (pay a plumber lately? $$$!). Or maybe we should just cut the school tax - you want kids? pay for them yourself.

Idoknow
Idoknow

grannypop, Your taxes in hartford can go up 11%. I am glad you are happy with that scenario. Hartford sounds like a nice place to visit but I wouldn't want to live there.

Uncle Fester
Uncle Fester

I posted numerous times in the past that this was nothing but smoke-n-mirrors, schemed up by the politicians, with the g'vnor out in front and center of the 2% Tax Cap parade. Nobody believed me...How's that workin out now for 'ya?

BTW, Vote NO for school budgets -- any and ALL of them -- otherwise you're just voting yourself and other fellow citizens a tax increase.

...AND, TAX RENTERS TOO FOR SCHOOL COSTS!!

grannypop
grannypop

Idoknow ` JUst a quick reply- I am speaking of Cambridge NY. A tiny rural town with a world class education. And, yes....Ill pay considerably more to keep my local school where I graduated from, my daughters graduated from, and my grandkids will graduate from. A home like mine in say, Saratoga would be taxed way more and the life style would not be near as high a quality. I am so proud of our local school's accomplishments and how we have not "changed" and for that-I am willing to pay 70.00 more a month in tax. It is nice to live the rural life, no strip malls, traffic circles, congestion, traffic, noise, or internet, in trade for the simple farm life we enjoy. Look at Malta. I am WILLING to PAY more TAX as to not have chip fabs, ugly Condo's, TRAFFIC and the noise that goes with it and the build up. That is why we live here...it is quiet and beautiful.

Idoknow
Idoknow

grannypop, Are you in or near Shushan? I love it there. I would go there and I might.

Shushan looks like a fairy tail village to me. Tell me what you know about it. Does that little village share the same aquifer. It looked like they had some well problem where I was looking.

Alan F Smith
Alan F Smith

Stop wasting your time writing all these comments about tax cap, and fixing school budgets. If your school's proposed budget has a local tax levy increase attached to it.....VOTE NO !!! It really is that simple 1. Go to vote on 15 May 2. VOTE NO. Tell your board of education that you will NOT support a budget that raises the local tax levy. If they present another budget that still has a tax levy increase, VOTE NO AGAIN. After two budget defeats, a contingency budget goes into effect, with a flat line on the local tax levy.
Don't make this harder than it has to be VOTE NO on 15 May 2012 !!!
Alan F Smith

grannypop
grannypop

While I can respect the opinion below I completely do not AGREE! My son went to Ca
CCS and then attended RPI - he is now working and raising his family. All his sucesses came frm playing sports, being able to learn about culture and art, learning Latin, a d thriving in an atmosphere that supports a positive educational environment! I will AGREE to raise my taxes so this can continue! It has traditionally been a great school... Better that any school around! I will send a message of support and vote YES! I hope others value eduation as my family does. Go CCS!

Idoknow
Idoknow

I think most people value education, but it might be harder for those struggling to afford groceries or being foreclosed on.

I can see some you people need a graphic description of what high taxes are causing.

Welcome to the discussion.

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