The Tuckahoe School Board will meet Monday night at 7:30 p.m. and discuss how to move forward, after the proposed 2012-13 school budget was at the polls six days earlier, an event that has stirred ire among parents and taxpayers.
The School Board can put the same budget — or, more likely, a revised spending plan — up for a vote on June 19, a date set by New York State. If the budget fails a second time, the district will be forced to live with no increase in the tax levy. The School Board does have the option of skipping a June 19 vote, and can instead just accept having no bump in the tax levy, without putting up a fight.
Tuckahoe School Parent-Teacher Organization Co-President Mindy Armandi said last week that her "faith in humanity is shaken" after a majority or voters said no to the school budget, as well as a second measure for new heating pipes.
“I am shocked by the amount of anger and bitterness that is out there, and I really feel bad for the voters that got blindsided by misinformation when they came to vote,” Armandi said.
The 2012-13 proposal included an estimated 9.54 percent increase in the tax rate, with a new rate of $7.230 in taxes paid for every $1,000 of a home's assessed value. Armandi said forces that opposed the budget confused voters into thinking that 9.54 percent was the size of the tax levy increase — the total amount of money raised through property taxes — rather than the tentative tax rate increase. The proposed tax levy increase was 1.99 percent.
Because property assessments fell an average of 4.91 percent across the district, the size of the estimated tax rate increase grew to nearly 10 percent. But annual property assessments will not be finalized until October, so the actual tax rate will not be known for some months after a budget is adopted. And the impact on individuals' tax bills is dependent on whether their property assessments go up or down — or remain the same — in 2012.
"It was a matter of people being swayed by misinformation," Armandi said of voters' rejection of the budget. "They thought the school budget is [increasing] 9.5 percent, which it's not."
Under the failed proposal, total expenditures were slated to rise by 4.40 percent.
If there is ultimately no tax levy increase, it would mean cutting more than $300,000 from the budget. But the School Board may propose a budget on June 19 with less severe cuts. Before the first vote, programs that district officials said would likely be on the chopping block if the budget fails are fifth- and eighth-grade outdoor education and all co-curricular programs. They also expect to have to cut an elementary education position and two teaching assistant positions.
"I would not like to see any more cuts being made in instructional programs for the school," Armandi said. "One concern is our outdoor education program that we provide for the kids. We’re waiting to hear from our board on Monday night to see what is going to happen.”
The , which was rejected with 228 voters in favor and 275 opposed last Tuesday — a 47-vote margin —adhered to New York State's new tax levy cap. According to district officials, the levy increase could have been as high as 2.7 percent and still fallen under the cap, but the proposal was even lower, at 1.99 percent. Districts that pierced the cap had to get 60 percent of voters to agree to their budgets, rather than a standard, simple majority of 50 percent plus one vote to pass.
In 2011, when the district proposed a 2.8 percent increase in the tax levy, the budget .
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The board also has to figure out its next move concerning another proposition that went down at the polls: Voters rejected a plan to expend $465,000 from the district's capital reserve fund to replace heating pipes. The move would not have affected the tax levy or tax rate. The new piping proposition received 120 votes in favor and 222 against, and at least 161 voters abstained.
The Tuckahoe School Board work session is public and will take place in the library, starting at 7:30 p.m.