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.Some residents would like the schools to give voters more information.
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.
To some in the community, though, not making any projection of the tax rate is even more misleading.Local school districts won’t publicly release tax rate estimates
“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.”