Schools propose lowest average tax levy in five years; 96% of budgets stay within tax cap

Release from the New York State School Boards Association

Schools statewide are proposing an average tax levy increase of just 1.98 percent, the lowest in five years, according to an analysis of state property tax report card data by the New York State School Boards Association.

Ninety-six percent of school districts are proposing tax levy increases at or below their tax levy limits in their upcoming budgets.

“School boards worked diligently to craft budgets that balance the needs of students with their taxpayers’ ability to pay,” said NYSSBA Executive Director Timothy G. Kremer. “The past several years brought substantial cuts in staff and programs, but the additional state aid this year helped many schools hold the line on any further deep cuts.

Overall, 645 districts are proposing budgets within their tax caps, which means they will need a simple majority of voters to approve their budgets. Twenty-four districts are seeking to override their caps, meaning they will need at least 60 percent voter approval for their budgets to pass.

Last year, 98.3 percent of budgets within the cap passed on the first try, compared to 25 percent that exceeded the cap.

Schools draw heavily on reserves

More than 97 percent of districts are drawing on reserve funds to help balance their budgets. Collectively, schools estimate they will use some $1.2 billion in fund balance in 2014-15 to lower school taxes.

School districts’ tax levy cap calculations for 2014-15 school year started at 1.46 percent rather than 2 percent, since the cap is the lesser of 2 percent or the inflation rate. Individual tax levy limits vary for each district, however, because of certain allowable exemptions, such as for ongoing capital projects.

School spending for 2014-15 would rise 2.63 percent on average, compared to 2.9 percent last year. The increase in spending was driven primarily by substantial school district contributions to the employee retirement systems and health insurance coverage.