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Zack Hutchins
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For Release — Thursday, May 4, 2000

SCHOOL DISTRICT PROPOSALS CONTAIN TAX INCREASES
AVERAGING TWO TIMES INFLATION, STUDY FINDS

ALBANY—Proposed school budgets in districts across New York State would increase property taxes at more than twice the inflation rate, at the same time districts are receiving a record $1.2 billion increase in aid from the state, a new "School Tax Watch" study by The Public Policy Institute of New York State finds.

Even after adjusting for enrollment increases, the average increase in property tax levies proposed by school districts is 4.9 percent - barely below twice the 2.5 percent inflation rate projected for the year. Per-student spending would increase an average of 5 percent, exactly twice inflation, according to the study.

After adjusting for increases or decreases in enrollments, nearly three-quarters, or 487, of the district budgets include above-inflation tax increases, the study found. The Institute is the research affiliate of The Business Council of New York State, Inc.

Residents of some 680 school districts across New York State will vote on school budgets and elect school board members on Tuesday, May 16. In 1999, Governor Pataki and the Legislature enacted legislation requiring districts to prepare a Property Tax Report Card showing proposed totals for spending and property tax levy, and the percentage increase in each. Districts must send the information to the state Education Department, which in turn is required to publish the data for all districts at least 10 days before the statewide budget voting day. The figures for most districts are available through the department's website at http://stateaid.nysed.gov.

"Governor Pataki and the Legislature enacted the STAR program to reduce the heavy burden of school taxes on homeowners," said Daniel B. Walsh, president/CEO of The Business Council. "Above-inflation tax increases at the local level are taking STAR dollars from homeowners and diverting those dollars into higher spending."

For its analysis, The Public Policy Institute used the Education Department's compilation of school district data to calculate per-student property tax collections and per-student spending for the current and 2000-01 school years. The Institute did not include districts with enrollment of 200 or fewer in its findings.

For all school districts that have reported financial data to the Education Department, property taxes are projected to increase by an average 6.6 percent. Total enrollment is expected to increase by 1.2 percent. Adjusting for the enrollment increases results in a per-pupil, statewide average tax increase of just under 5 percent. The "Big 5" school districts where residents do not vote on school budgets - New York City, Buffalo, Yonkers, Rochester and Syracuse - are not included in the SED data or the Public Policy Institute study.

Forty-seven districts plan to reduce their property tax levies, on an enrollment-adjusted basis. Those districts, from largest to smallest percentage tax reduction, are:

Roosevelt
Brentwood
Canajoharie
Pearl River
Central Square
Roscoe
Eastport
Cattaraugus
Waverly
Lackawanna
Hyde Park
Hampton Bays
Crown Point
Wyandanch
Patchogue-Medford
Johnstown
Chautauqua Lake
De Ruyter
Port Jefferson
Jamestown
Troy
Bemus Point
Copenhagen
Maryvale
Southampton
Livingston Manor
Andover
Newfane
Valley Stream #30
Green Island
Ogdensburg
Franklin Square
Lancaster
Evans-Brant
Salmon River
Bellmore-Merrick
East Moriches
Sidney
Rensselaer
Peekskill
Elba
Elmont
Poland
Greenburgh
Amherst
Unadilla Valley
Niagara Falls

However, another 64 of the districts included in the study are proposing per-student property taxes increases of 10 percent or more, the Institute found. Most of those districts are planning per-student spending increases significantly above inflation.

The new state budget announced by Governor Pataki and the Legislature is expected to increase state aid by $1.2 billion, or 8.7 percent. That increase follows three years of record aid increases to school districts, totaling $2.2 billion from 1996-97 to 1999-2000. The three-year increase before this year was 22 percent, more than three times the inflation rate for the period. Per-pupil spending in New York was $9,192 in 1999 - third-highest in the nation, and 43 percent above the national average, according to the U.S. Education Department.

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