New Yorkers voted on school budgets yesterday. In Broome and Tioga counties, most budgets passed, but the Tioga Central School District got tripped up on taxes.
Tioga Central schools superintendent Scot Taylor says his district relies too heavily on money held in reserve.
“The only other resource you have as a district is your tax levy,” he says.
So this year, the district tried raise its tax income by 30 percent. But state law makes it hard to raise taxes that much. The state’s “tax cap” limits increases to two percent. Exceed the cap, and your school budget needs 60 percent of votes to pass, not just a majority. Taylor’s district didn’t get those votes yesterday.
Taylor points out that Tioga schools have comparatively low taxes. With the proposed raise, they’re fifth from the bottom in the Southern Tier on tax levy dollars per student. Taylor says they shouldn’t need a 60 percent majority to raise that.
But E.J. McMahon of the fiscal watchdog Empire Center says the tax cap benefits New Yorkers. On the public radio program The Capitol Pressroom, he pointed to statewide savings.
“If we had kept growing at the rate of the 30 years prior to the tax cap, people would have spent a total of $7.6 billion more,” he said.
After the budget defeat, the Tioga Central district has two options: try a re-vote with a different tax rate or settle for a tax increase of zero percent.