Heard of the state’s 2 percent tax cap for schools? Try zero.
That’s the scenario a coalition of superintendents, teachers, school board members and other education advocacy groups outlined today based on economic trends and state projections.
The Educational Conference Board – which includes the Council of School Superintendents, the New York State School Boards Association and New York State United Teachers, among other groups – said that the cap on tax levy increases for schools may be zero percent in 2016-17 before school district exemptions are even taken into account.
If that happened, school districts would need a supermajority of voters to approve a budget proposal that increased taxes.
The conference board based its projections on the first four months of Consumer Price Index data and estimates by the state Division of Budget.
“Over and over again, voters are told that New York state has a 2 percent tax cap. We do not,” said Educational Conference Board Chairman John Yagielski said in a written statement sent to reporters on Thursday.
State law requires school districts to stay within a tax cap that is based on inflation but adjusted for factors in each district, including debt, growth and other numbers. That means that some local districts have seen caps as high as about 6 percent, while others have seen negative tax caps.
The Educational Conference Board is calling for legislative discussions over the future of the tax cap to address the following concerns:
• "Redesigning the override requirement so that it is a separate ballot question, put directly to voters for simple majority approval. Massachusetts, cited as a model, allows tax cap overrides with only a simple majority of voters.
• Modifying the uniquely restrictive zero percent contingent budget cap for schools. Again, Massachusetts allows communities to increase their tax levy by up to 2.5 percent without voter approval. Local governments in New York may increase tax levies by up to the cap with only a simple majority vote by their governing board.
• Making the allowable levy growth factor a consistent 2 percent, regardless of the CPI; and
• Addressing instances where a district’s maximum allowable tax cap is negative."
Nearly all of the school districts in Erie and Niagara county saw their budgets pass by more than 60 percent of the voters this year. All but one district proposed budgets that stayed within the tax cap.
The Education Conference Board's projections come as Gov. Andrew Cuomo makes a push to extend the tax cap. Read More: Cuomo pushes plan to extend property tax cap.