Journal News Offers Primer on School Budgets Under Cuomo Tax-Levy Cap

Written By: Robert Cox

Gary Stern has a good primer on how local school districts are dealing with Cuomo’s tax levy cap: School districts struggle to explain tax cap.

The first thing that school districts want their communities to understand about the state’s new tax cap is that it isn’t really a tax cap. What it does is limit how much a district’s tax levy can go up. That’s the total amount a district raises in taxes. But the cap does not limit how much property-tax bills — what you pay — may go up.

Exempt from the tax-levy cap are expenses such as pension costs and voter-approved capital costs.

A district may seek to exceed the tax-levy cap but would require a 60% vote. In New Rochelle the budget was approved in 2011 with more than 60%, in 2010 with less than 60%. The Journal News reports “Not many districts are expected to try to exceed the cap.” There have been signals in some of the public statements from the New Rochelle school district that they will not seek to exceed the tax cap and want to prepare parents for the resulting cuts to staff and programs.

The article notes that in some states such as Massachusetts districts can charge a fee for participation in sports and other activities. Such fees are not allowed in New York, according to the Journal News.