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For Release — Wednesday, June 18, 1997

ATTACHED TABLES SHOW TAX INCREASES FOR ALL LARGER SCHOOL DISTRICTS STATEWIDE AND FOR A SELECTION OF OTHER DISTRICTS. FOR DATA ON ALL DISTRICTS IN YOUR AREA, CONTACT THE PUBLIC POLICY INSTITUTE.

SCHOOL TAXES FAR OUTPACED INFLATION IN LAST DECADE;
NEW STUDY SHOWS DISTRICT-BY-DISTRICT INCREASES

School taxes across New York State more than doubled from 1985 to 1995, increasing at nearly three times the rate of inflation, a new Public Policy Institute analysis of the latest comprehensive data shows.

Tax collections for school districts outside New York City — primarily property taxes — rose by 100.5 percent while enrollment inched up 1.2 percent, the Institute's analysis found. State aid to school districts also rose sharply during the period, by 74.3 percent, while inflation was only 35 percent.

Based on data school districts report to the Office of the State Comptroller, the Institute calculated per-student tax increases for 657 school districts with enrollment above 250 students. Fifteen districts saw school taxes more than triple over the decade, while another 309 districts more than doubled their per-student taxes.

"School property taxes on residents and businesses in New York hurt our ability to compete with other states," said Daniel B. Walsh, president of The Business Council of New York State and chief executive of the Institute. "Huge increases in assistance from Albany have failed to stop the local tax increases. The property tax cap proposed by Governor Pataki and Senator Bruno is the only way to bring school taxes under control."

While school enrollment statewide rose slightly, many of those districts showing the largest increase in per-student tax collections experienced shrinking enrollments. At the same time, districts with large enrollment growth appeared more able to limit per-student tax increases — indicating that school districts find it easier to manage growth efficiently than to reduce spending as the number of students declines. Still, numerous districts where enrollment fell managed to limit tax increases.

Districts that merged during the period studied were among those with the lowest increases in taxes. That's partly because, due to generous state aid incentives for school district mergers, those districts saw their funding from Albany increase by especially high amounts.

The Office of the State Comptroller reports data for 711 school districts outside New York City. Those districts collected an average of $5,387 in taxes for every student in 1995, the latest year for which data are available. In 1985, districts collected an average of $2,719 in taxes per student.

State aid per student totaled $3,866 in 1995, an increase of 74.3 percent — more than twice the level of inflation — over the decade.

One district, Indian River in Jefferson County, reduced per-student tax collections over the period. The district experienced huge enrollment growth—- almost doubling in size — and an increase of $4.2 million in federal aid. The district is next to the Army's Fort Drum, which added thousands of military personnel during the period studied.

Twelve school districts increased taxes by less than the inflation rate from 1985 to 1995, the Institute found. Those districts were Edwards-Knox, Bolivar-Richburg, Buffalo, Broadalbin-Perth, Lowville, Lyncourt, Hinsdale, Brocton, Syracuse, Bainbridge-Guilford, Bath and Greece. Three of those (Edwards-Knox, Bolivar-Richburg and Broadalbin-Perth) were created as a result of mergers during the period studied by the Institute.

Districts outside New York City collected a total of $8.96 billion in property taxes in 1995, up from $4.46 billion a decade earlier. Some 174 districts also collect revenue from local sales, utility or other taxes, totaling $211 million in 1995.

New York State's per-pupil spending for elementary and secondary schools is the second-highest in the country. Figures reported by the National Education Association show New York schools spent an average of $8,700 per student in 1996, second only to New Jersey and 54 percent above the national average.

Table 1:
School Tax Increases in Districts Outside New York City With 10,000+ Students, 1985-95
Table 2:
Largest Tax Increases Among School Districts Outside New York City With 2,500-9,999 Students, 1985-95
Table 3:
Smallest Tax Increases Among School Districts Outside New York City With 2,500-9,999 Students, 1985-95
Table 4:
Largest Tax Increases Among School Districts Outside New York City With 1,000-2,499 Students, 1985-95
Table 5:
Smallest Tax Increases Among School Districts Outside New York City With 1,000-2,499 Students, 1985-95
Table 6:
Largest Tax Increases Among School Districts Outside New York City With 250-999 Students, 1985-95
Table 7:
Smallest Tax Increases Among School Districts Outside New York City With 250-999 Students, 1985-95
  Complete Listing of School Districts