Zero. Zilch. Zip. Scratch. Nil. Nada. Nothing.
Pick your word for no increase in the tax cap next year, and that’s what it’s looking like for school districts next year.
It has not been finalized yet, but for Frontier Central School District, the prospect is chilling – and infuriating, particularly when state officials announce that property tax freeze checks will be mailed soon to New Yorkers whose municipalities stayed within the tax cap.
“The people in Albany should be ashamed of themselves that they put other elected officials to be the bad guy and they go off on their white horse,” Board President Janet MacGregor Plarr said Tuesday night.
She accused Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the State Legislature of “bamboozling” taxpayers.
“It’s a shell game,” Plarr said. “Instead of giving us the aid that we deserve, that we’re entitled to, that they decided to withhold from us, they play these games by sending a check for 200 bucks.”
Frontier has struggled with cuts in recent years to stay within caps that allowed small increases. So if the tax cap is zero, that means next year’s budget would need to win 60 percent of the vote in the district if taxes go up, even if the levy goes up by a small amount.
Because the margin is so small, Board Member Davis Podkulski said that while the board will strive to stay within the tax cap, it should start talking now about the possibility of going over the cap.
“I don’t want to keep pushing it down the wayside to where it’s too late,” Podkulski said.
Other board members agreed.
“I don’t see how we’re not going to go over the tax cap,” Board Member Patrick T. Boyle said. “Zero is unachievable.”
The School Board talked about the tax cap when it was reviewing proposed budget goals and guidelines, which it plans to adopt at its next meeting. Among the goals are to focus on student achievement, include public and district stakeholders in the development of the budget, reflect long-term financial and facilities planning and implement reserve planning.
Superintendent Bret Apthorpe said this year’s budget will be put together based on what students need to achieve, which may be different in every school.
The budget also will deal with new agreements with all of the district’s unions. The board also will be keeping in mind that based on current trends, if changes are not made, next year’s budget has a gap of about $2 million between expected revenues and expenses.