School budgets settled

by Tim Hoefer |  | NY Torch

Just two school districts — out of nearly 700 in New York — will be limited to the new zero-tax hike contingency budget provision of the state’s new property tax cap law next year.

After failing to have either of two budget proposals approved by the electorate, the 1,500-pupil Cheektowaga-Sloan and the 355-pupil Oppenheim-Ephratah school districts will implement budgets for the 2013-14 school year using the current year’s tax levy, which equals no tax hike.

Suburban Buffalo’s Cheektowaga had proposed just a one-percent tax increase in the latest round of voting. The loss means the district will have to cut another $180,000 — or about one-half of one percent of the $33 million budget. According to our BenchmarkingNY, Cheektowaga taxpayers are among the highest taxed in the state, so their resistance to even a small increase is understandable.

Oppenheim, on the other hand, is a classic example of a district that is arguably too small to be sustainable by the tiny community located in between Albany and Utica. When a proposed merger between Oppenheim and neighboring St. Johnsville failed last December — St. Johnsville residents voted in favor of a merger, while Oppenheim residents voted against it, the Oppenheim superintendent warned:

Under the present funding mechanism, if we stay single, we’re going to have a very difficult time providing a sound basic education for our students. We have quite a large budget shortfall projected for next year and for the year after that and the year after that.

Oppenheim residents wanted their own district, but don’t want to pay 2.79% more in taxes to sustain it. They will now decide how, or whether, they want to live with the consequences (the merger could be presented to the districts’ voters again this December).

Of the 24 budget revotes this past Tuesday, 19 were for districts that attempted to override the tax cap on the first try.  Three of those were successful in overriding the cap on the second try, while the other 16 passed budgets either at or under the cap.



- Tim Hoefer is the Executive Director at the Empire Center for Public Policy.