Voters Reject a Pair of Tax Cap-Breaching School Budgets

Votes on school budgets for the upcoming year proposing an average increase in per pupil spending of 4.3 percent were held state-wide yesterday, with balloting taking place in 672 individual school districts.

New York’s public schools spent a collective $25,919 per pupil in 2019-20, more than any other state and 89 percent above the national average of $13,494, according to annual U.S. Census Bureau data released just today.

Local property taxes are the primary revenue source for the state’s public schools. Since 2012, a statutory tax cap generally limits the annual growth of the tax levy imposed by each school district to the lesser of two percent or the rate of inflation. For the 2022-23 school year, the growth limit is two percent, as modified by district-level factors that typically lift the threshold higher. While a voting majority is sufficient for adoption of school budgets at or under the cap, a 60 percent super-majority is required to approve budgets exceeding the cap.

The vast majority of the 687 school budgets voted on around the state yesterday proposed to spend either at or slightly below the cap level—evidence that the budgets are devised with an eye on the cap.

Fifteen districts around the state, however, did seek to raise their school tax levy beyond the local cap limit. While 12 of those 15 votes succeeded, two others failed to secure the 60 percent support required for adoption.

Just half of 628 voting residents supported the Garrison Central School District budget — a blueprint for the Putnam County district’s upcoming school year that would raise the tax levy by 9.2 percent to help finance spending of $57,508 per pupil.

The proposal of Newfield Central School District in Tompkins County for a 14 percent increase in the district tax levy also failed to gain 60 percent super-majority support. In a 151-134 vote, only 53 percent of voters agreed to the plan to spend $31,568 per pupil.

Barely succeeding by a four-vote margin was the tax cap override vote for the Schenevus Central School District in Otsego County. It was adopted in a 193-122 vote, with 61 percent of voters endorsing the plan to spend $37,833 per pupil next year.

The largest district by far to propose a cap-breaching budget was the Ithaca Central School District, where a super-majority of 70-percent of residents voted by a 2446 to 1069 margin to adopt a $148.9 million budget raising the district property tax levy by 7.21 percent to finance spending of $26,910 per pupil.

New York school districts whose budgets were defeated yesterday can hold a re-vote in June on the same proposal or a modified one. If those votes fail, a district’s tax levy remains at the current level.

You may also like

Blocking regs, court highlights role of parents 

A state Supreme Court judge yesterday voided the bulk of New York’s “substantial equivalence” regulations aimed at religious and other non-public schools Read More

Courts set a limit on NY’s tax reach

Just in time for tax season, New York State's tax agency just lost a major legal challenge to its policy of pursuing maximum income tax payments from wealthy vacation homeowners—even when they live elsewhere. Read More

Collapse in NYC Schools Pulls NY School Enrollment To Modern Low 

Led by a massive decline in New York City, enrollment in New York’s public schools continued falling last year and has sunk to its lowest level since the mid-1950s.  Read More

DiNapoli aims to curb NY’s borrowing binge

Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has unveiled a new proposal for constitutionally curbing the state’s seemingly uncontrollable appetite for borrowing. Read More

Hochul’s agenda mostly sidesteps health care

Governor Hochul gave health care surprisingly little attention in her State of the State speech on Tuesday – a sign that taking on dysfunction in one-sixth of the state's economy ranks low on her list of priorities. Read More

In State Budgeting, Process Matters

At a panel event in Albany being hosted by the tomorrow morning, The Empire Center’s EJ McMahon and other budget experts and observers will discuss the timely topic of state budget process reform. Read More

Albany’s Underbaked, Overdue Budget Update Finally Arrives

The Hochul Administration has finally released an overdue budget report—which, on first look, shows the state's fiscal outlook virtually unchanged.  Read More

OVERDUE: Governor’s key budget update

Governor Hochul’s budget office has yet to release the statutorily required mid-year financial plan update of the state’s fiscal outlook. Read More

Empire Center Logo Enjoying our work? Sign up for email alerts on our latest news and research.
Together, we can make New York a better place to live and work!