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Hamburg, Niagara Falls schools looking at negative tax caps for 2nd year

Niagara Falls and Hamburg school districts can't raise taxes this year without at least 60 percent of voters giving the OK.

Both districts have what is known as a "negative tax cap," where according to the state tax cap legislation formula, they must lower their tax levy in order to have their budgets pass with a simple majority of 50 percent plus one vote.

They are among only 18 school districts in the state that have negative tax caps for their 2017-18 budgets.

This is the second year in a row that both districts are dealing with a negative tax cap, which is around a negative 1 percent for both.

Niagara Falls is not planning to lower taxes, and is seeking to override the cap again this year with a 60 percent vote.

"We will be keeping the levy flat," said Joseph Giarrizzo, administrator for school business services. "We did the same thing last year, same scenario."

Hamburg is looking at a rollover budget, and trying to bridge a gap of about $1 million between expenditures and expected revenues. The district is planning to keep its levy within the tax cap, like it did last year. That means the school district would collect about $300,000 less in taxes.

Ninety-eight percent of districts in the state plan to stay within the tax cap, according to an analysis by the New York State Association of Business Officials of information that school districts submitted to the state comptroller's office.

This year's tax cap is 1.26 percent, but factors such as changes in capital exclusions, local property base, or local payments in lieu of taxes can increase or decrease a cap for an individual district. Last year 82 districts had negative tax caps. The 15 districts that are planning to override the cap is the lowest number since the inception of the tax cap in 2011-12, according to the association.

Wellsville Central in Allegany County and Clymer in Chautauqua County also have negative tax caps. Of the four Western New York districts, only Niagara Falls indicated it would seek to override the tax cap.

The average tax cap for school districts in the western region of the state is 2.23 percent, according to the business officials. The average tax cap statewide is 1.8 percent, according to the group.

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