For Release — Wednesday, May 8, 2002
SCHOOL BUDGET PROPOSALS WOULD RAISE AVERAGE
TO $12,888, UP 3.3 PERCENT FROM CURRENT YEAR, STUDY FINDS
Editor's note: For a PDF file of tables showing proposed tax and spending increases in individual school districts in New York State, see www.ppinys.org/taxes/school02/2002schooltax2.PDF. To see the same tables in HTML format, visit www.ppinys.org/taxes/school02/counties_a-f.htm.
ALBANYSchool districts across New York State would spend an average of $12,888 per student in 2002-03, an increase of 3.3 percent, under proposed budgets appearing on ballots later this month, a new "School Tax Watch" study by The Public Policy Institute finds. The state Budget Division estimates inflation for New York State at 2.4 percent in 2002.
Proposed school budgets would increase property taxes by three times the projected rate of inflation, according to data compiled by the state Education Department and analyzed by the Institute, the research affiliate of The Business Council of New York State. Property tax collections per student would rise 7.7 percent, to just over $7,500.
Many school officials are blaming this year's high tax increases on the lack of a major increase in state aid such as those districts have received in recent years, and continued uncertainty over this year's state budget. The Institute's analysis shows, though, that if districts' spending had grown no faster than inflation, schools could have held average property tax increases to 5.6 percent, instead of the projected 7.7 percent (both numbers adjusted for enrollment changes).
Voters in some 670 school districts around the state will consider 2002-03 budget proposals Tuesday, May 21. State law requires each district to inform the Education Department of its current and proposed spending, tax levy, and enrollment. The Public Policy Institute used the data to calculate per-student tax and spending figures, and the percentage increase, for each of 628 districts with more than 200 students. Another 26 districts did not submit financial data to the Education Department as required by law.
Under the STAR tax-reduction program Governor Pataki and the Legislature enacted in 1997, school districts reduce each homeowner's property-tax bill by hundreds of dollars, with the specific amount linked to property values in a given community. Tax increases enacted by school districts since then, however, have taken back hundreds of millions of dollars of STAR benefits for additional spending. Because business property owners are not eligible for STAR, employers are forced to pay the entire cost of any new school-tax increase.
The proposed property-tax increases come after Governor Pataki and the Legislature have increased state aid to public schools by $4.4 billion, or 45 percent, since 1995. Schools statewide will also benefit from record increases of nearly $400 million in federal funding during the 2002-03 school year, according to the state Budget Division.
Some 34 districts are proposing budgets that would increase per-student spending more than 10 percent. Several of those districts are home to charter schools and benefit by being allowed to retain roughly 30 percent of their per-pupil funding for students who choose to attend the new charter schools.
Another 114 districts, however, are planning to spend less in the coming school year, after adjusting for enrollment changes, than they are spending in the current year. Many districts have refinanced debt to adjust for new state financial aid formulas, which may drive up costs in the future.
School taxes make up the largest share of the local property-tax bill for most property owners in New York State, representing 58 percent of total property taxes statewide. New York's property taxes are fourth-highest in the country, at $1,361 per person, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. Public-school spending in New York was third-highest among the states at $9,935 per student in 2000-01, according to the U.S. Department of Education. That year, state aid to public schools in New York, at $5,548 per student, was 26 percent above the national average.
Data that school districts submitted to the Education Department, on which the Institute's analysis is based, are available through the department's website at stateaid.nysed.gov. The "Big 5" school districts where residents do not vote on school budgetsNew York City, Buffalo, Yonkers, Rochester and Syracuse-are not included in the SED data or in the Public Policy Institute study.
For a PDF file of tables showing proposed tax and spending increases in individual school districts in New York State, see www.ppinys.org/taxes/school02/2002schooltax2.PDF. To see the same tables in HTML format, visit www.ppinys.org/taxes/school02/counties_a-f.htm.