Tuckahoe School Board members will meet this coming Monday to sharpen their pencils and work on a revised budget that will be more palatable to voters, after a proposed $17.8 million budget at the polls on Tuesday.
Although the budget proposal adhered to the new state-mandated tax cap, a different element of the new law applies — if the budget is rejected a second time, the tax levy must remain flat year-over-year. The initial budget proposal called for a 1.99 percent increase in the tax levy, amounting to $314,485 that would have to be cut out.
The school district will have a shot on June 19 to offer voters an amended budget. With a turnout of 503 voters this week, the initial budget proposal was rejected by 47 votes. One year earlier, with a turnout of 322 voters, the 2011-12 budget .
School Board Chairperson Robert Grisnik and Vice Chairperson Dr. Daniel Crough said Tuesday night that the board will have to look at cutting programs.
Before New York State implemented its new 2 percent tax levy cap this year, a district whose budget failed twice would be put onto a contingency budget based on overall spending. As state explained Wednesday morning, the new law is based on the tax levy — the amount of money raised through property taxes — rather than the size of the entire budget, which includes other sources of income, such as state aid. “You used to vote on the spending,” he said. “Now you vote on the taxes.”
Thiele said that the state got rid of contingency budgets because they were confusing — “It was like nuclear physics trying to understand it” — and, in some cases, a contingency budget could have a bigger tax increase than what was voted down.
“You could still end up with substantial tax increases,” he said. “It was a really convoluted formula that no one understood.”
The bottom line is, “What Tuckahoe will have to live with is much more stringent under the new law that under the old law,” he said.
However, the 0 percent levy increase can be avoided if Tuckahoe voters approve a revised budget on June 19.
While not required to hold a second vote, Thiele said he anticipates Tuckahoe will.
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The 2012-13 proposed budget included $700,000 drawn from the district’s savings, $864,465 in state aid (a ), and $117,521 in miscellaneous revenue.
The proposed increase in the tax rate was 9.54 percent. But district-wide, tax assessments fell, so the actual impact on the typical taxpayer would be less than half that.
On a $400,000 home in 2011-12, with the existing tax rate of $6.60 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, a tax bill would amount to $2,640 annually.
Because property assessments slid by 4.91 percent in Tuckahoe, on average a formerly $400,000 home is now assessed at $380,360. Under the proposed 2012-13 tax rate of 7.23, the new tax bill would be $2,750, a $110, or 4.17 percent, tax increase.
Tax assessments are subject to change, so the tax rate is only an estimate and could go up or down.
The proposed tax levy increase was 1.99 percent, though the highest allowable without piercing the tax cap was 2.7 percent. “The '2 percent' is a bit of a misnomer,” Thiele said. Because of adjustments allowed under the tax cap law, such as for growth in the tax base, a 2.7 percent cap was close to the state average, he said.
Only 45.3 percent of voters said yes to the budget on Tuesday. A simple majority was needed to pass the budget; however, if the district had sought to pierce the tax cap, a supermajority of 60 percent would be needed.
Thiele said that in his Assembly district, four school districts attempted to pierce the cap. and were successful, while Center Moriches did not even garner a simple majority of the voters.
The Tuckahoe School Board meets for a work session Monday, May 21, at 7:30 p.m. in the school library.