School Districts Pushing The Limit

| Press Releases, Reports

Nearly half of the 669 school districts seeking voter approval for budgets on Tuesday, May 16 are presenting spending plans to increase property taxes as high as the 2011 property tax cap law allows, according to an analysis released today by the Empire Center for Public Policy.

A total of 313 school districts have proposed budgets setting property tax levies as high as the cap will allow—indicating that property taxes would have increased significantly more had the cap not been in place to deter them. The Center’s analysis, the School Budget Spotlight, uses newly released data from the annual Property Tax Report Card compiled by the state Department of Education, and uniquely presents school budgets on a per-pupil basis.

The districts, which do not include the Big 5 city school districts, together expect to increase school property taxes $355 million, or 1.7 percent, even while forecasting total enrollment to dip by 4,352, or 0.3 percent.

More than half the districts (346) expect to educate fewer students in 2017-18 than during the current school year, with 19 districts forecasting an enrollment drop of more than 5 percent. On a regional basis, excluding the Big 5, every region of the state except the Mohawk Valley and Capital Region is projecting to next year have fewer students, with the largest year-over-year drops in the Finger Lakes and Central New York (0.8 percent).

“New York’s school districts are receiving record-high levels of aid from Albany to educate fewer students, and our school taxes are still climbing,” said Tim Hoefer, executive director of the Empire Center. “Albany’s fixation on steering more state funds to schools isn’t translating into property tax relief. The tax cap has succeeded in slowing the growth of taxes, but there’s more to be done to set New York on the right track.”

The Empire Center, based in Albany, is an independent, nonpartisan, not-for-profit think tank dedicated to promoting policies to make New York a better place to live, work and do business.