CAMBRIDGE, N.Y. -- New York's property tax cap may not play a role during upcoming budgeting sessions in some local school districts.
Using preliminary numbers that she stressed may change, Cambridge Central School Business Administrator Beth Coates said that under the property tax cap, the school will stand to be able to increase local tax revenue 3.53 percent year-to-year under the new law's "tax levy limit" calculation. That allowance is nearly double the increase rejected by Cambridge district voters last May, and more than three times what was finally approved.
But because of the way the levy limit is calculated, Coates said CCS could conceivably be constrained below the 2 percent mark in future years, as some school districts now face.
Announced as a 2 percent cap, the state law allows exemptions for tax base growth, local debt service payments, and growth in staff retirement system contributions above 2 percent. The law also allows municipalities and school districts to exceed their calculated tax levy limit by notifying New York state beforehand, and seeking 60 percent approval from the governing board or voters.
On Monday during the school Board of Education meeting, CCS Superintendent Vincent Canini distinguished between a "cap" and a "levy limit," and reiterated all the variables in play, including town equalization rates, which force estimations of actual tax rates until mid-August; past the annual school budgeting season.
Contacted on Thursday, Pam Hatfield, business administrator at Hoosick Falls Central School, said she could not yet provide an accurate calculation for that district's tax levy limit on their upcoming budget.
CCS board member Paul Baker-Porazinski said Monday that the state could have done a better job explaining the tax cap law. "It's not going to sound good to people who are expecting a 2 percent tax cap," he said. The 3.53 percent limit at CCS represents an allowance of roughly $269,000 in additional funds raised through property taxes.
CCS appropriated nearly $7.4 million in property tax revenue in the 2011-12 school budget -- a 1.15 percent increase over the year prior. District residents defeated the first school budget put before voters last May which raised the tax levy 1.8 percent. The final budget included $1 million in appropriated reserves.
Coates said CCS was favorably affected by its debt load in the levy calculation this year because the school is taking on bond payments for its $8.037 million capital improvement project. She said the school received a better than expected interest rate on that bond -- the best bid received being 2.77 percent interest, whereas the school had previously estimated 2.9 percent.