Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Local school budget estimated to increase taxes by 7%

Our local school is one of only two among 11 area districts that are not giving voters an estimate of the tax rate increase associated with the proposed budget.
As voters head to the polls in less than two weeks to decide whether to approve their school districts’ 2011-2012 budget proposals, some voters will have more information than others. For voters in Tuckahoe and Eastchester, they’ll be making a decision without an estimate from the districts on how much their taxes will go up if they vote “yes.”
According to the school, it does not give an estimate because "that information is out of its control".  Declining property values and the related tax certiori filings mean estimating can be especially tricky these days.  The school doesn't even request the information needed to make an estimate.
Assistant Superintendent of Business Mary Ellen Melnyk said in an email that the district had not requested any information on the assessment level from the town assessor during the recent budget process.
But the town assessor gives helpful information.
According to Town Assessor Todd Huttunen, both the Eastchester and Tuckahoe school districts are looking at an estimated drop in assessment of around 2.3 percent. Though the actual formula used to calculate the final tax rate is more complicated, Huttunen said that a solid estimate of where the tax rate currently sits can be obtained by adding the percentage of tax levy increase to the percentage of the drop in assessment.
In Tuckahoe, that would put a tax rate estimate at around 4.77 percent, within the range estimated by Watkins. Eastchester’s tax rate estimate, based on those numbers, would come in at about 7 percent.
Some residents would like the schools to give voters more information.
To some in the community, though, not making any projection of the tax rate is even more misleading.
“You’re going to be voting on practically 5 percent [of a tax rate increase],” said Tuckahoe School District resident Joe Pregiato. “If people knew they’d be voting to jack up their taxes 5 percent again, a lot of people might vote no.”
Loretta Dalton, a resident of the Eastchester School District, noted that the 3.22 percent tax levy increase advertised by the Eastchester School District last year ended up translating into a roughly 7 percent tax rate increase for herself and several of her neighbors.
She said she felt the tax rate projection, even preliminary, is key to understanding the actual budget impact.
“I believe in transparency all across the board,” she said. “There is no reason for them not to be releasing it … We should be understanding what we’re voting for.”
Local school districts won’t publicly release tax rate estimates


  1. If that budget doesn't pass, they may eliminate full day kindergarten, in which case we would be toast. Her current school does have fullday kindergarten (at 22,000 per year), but it is now too late in the year for her to be able to switch to that program. Unless the afterschool program expanded its hours to take the kindergarten kids in the early afternoon, one of us would have to quit our jobs. I suspect there are many in a similar situation.

  2. Yes, I suspect it would be disastrous for many families.

    If the budget fails, the choice would be to cut student programs or to cut compensation costs. Actually, I think that's the real choice we have going forward because I don't think the tax increase trend is sustainable.

  3. They can't cut compensation costs because it is a contract.

    Although, I always wonder why they can't pull the sleight of hand that both NJ and CT pulled on us back when I was a state employee under a union contract - the state legislature simply refused to fund the raises. This happened to me in BOTH states! (this was during the recession of the early 90's). If states could do it then, why not now? BTW, it was very disheartening and was one of the big factors that drove me, and several other people in my department, out. Pulling tricks like that might work in the short term, but will drive the best people out.

  4. They could only cut compensation if the union agreed. I don't think they should, even if they could, simply refuse to fund wage costs. But I imagine there would be increased pressure for union concessions if kindergarten or other "basics" were to be cut due to budget constraints.

  5. I had hoped our board would ask for concessions this year, but they did not.

  6. I wonder why the state governments could refuse to fund raises back in the 90's? It certainly was not done in agreement with our union - in fact, in NJ, the union came close to voting to strike.

  7. Maybe it's because states might be able to get away with legislating something but not funding it.

  8. Yeah, like state employee pensions - agree to them but don't fund them - that is where the whole problem came from. If the state had funded the pensions the way that private companies are required to, we wouldn't be in this mess.