June 19 matters

For the 24 school districts across the state whose budgets did not pass, the next three weeks are crucial. June 19 is the last chance to ask voters to approve an increase.

Or they can adopt a 0 percent tax levy increase which does not need voter approval at any point. In most cases, that comes with such deep cuts that it appears most districts will try to resubmit to voters a budget that does increase the tax levy. (I have yet to find a district that has decided to do that.)

Most of the reporting has focused on school districts that tried to override their cap and failed, like New Paltz in Ulster county, where 59.3 percent of voters agreed with a 4.4 percent tax levy increase – but not enough to pass the budget. The district says it will likely seek a budget at its cap limit of 3.4 percent, which only needs a simple majority to win voter approval.

So far it appears Elmont on Long Island will still try to exceed their cap. Here’s a link to a Newsday article on that district. Here’s a link to a report that six other districts plan to cut the budgets to stay within the cap. No reports yet on what the other three districts will do.

The Fonda-Fultonville district is another school system that failed to override their tax cap. The Montgomery county district faced nearly $3 million less in state aid so the board tried for a 7.8 percent increase in the tax levy, above the 4.76 percent allowed by the new law. Based on exit surveys that said the community supported an increase, just not such a large one, the board plans to ask voters for a 3.5 percent increase in the tax levy. Again, only a simply majority will be needed.

The Cobleskill-Richmondville schools will also cut $257,000 from the budget that failed to come into line with the state-imposted cap (and thus just a simple majority to say yes.) Newspaper reports say the district is considering cutting music, library, business programs as well as administration and maintenance.

The Stillwater schools in Saratoga county are still going to try to exceed their cap. Keep in mind that’s because they are one of the dozen districts across the state where the cap is a decrease. The district has cut back on its spending proposal and will only submit a plan that raises the tax levy by 1.49 percent, rather than the 3.08 percent that only got 56 percent yes votes on May 15.

Yes, it’s disheartening to write that 56 percent of the voters agreed with the budget, but it still failed. That’s just one of the many problems with this tax cap law. You can help by asking lawmakers to change the law by clicking here.

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