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For Release — Thursday, May 12, 2005

SCHOOL BUDGETS WOULD RAISE SPENDING
BY MORE THAN TWICE THE INFLATION RATE, 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 http://www.ppinys.org/taxes/schooltax2005.pdf.

ALBANY—School districts across New York State plan to increase per-pupil spending by more than twice the rate of inflation in the coming year, a new "School Tax Watch" study by The Public Policy Institute finds.

Despite a major increase in state aid, proposed school budgets would increase property taxes by $650 million more than the amount that would be needed to keep pace with inflation and enrollment increases, according to the Institute's analysis.

Per-pupil spending would rise to an average $15,411, an increase of 6.2 percent, in the 672 school districts that have submitted budget data to the state Education Department. Property taxes per student would increase 7.1 percent, the Institute found. Inflation in New York State is projected at 2.7 percent for 2005.

Overall spending would rise by more than $1.6 billion statewide under the proposed budgets, with about $1 billion of that coming from increases in school taxes. Enrollment is expected to rise, on average, by 0.3 percent.

Voters in more than 700 school districts around the state will consider 2005-06 budget proposals Tuesday, May 17. 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 some 650 districts with more than 200 students. 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 in the Public Policy Institute study.

The proposed 2005-06 budgets represent the third consecutive year that public schools outside the Big 5 districts would increase spending by a total of more than $1 billion.

For the coming year, more than 100 school districts are proposing budgets with double-digit tax increases, on a per-student basis. Sixteen districts are proposing to reduce total taxes, after adjusting for enrollment changes.

School taxes make up the largest share of the local property-tax bill for most property owners in New York State, representing roughly 60 percent of total property taxes statewide. New York's overall property taxes are fifth-highest in the country, at $1,402 per person, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. Public-school spending among all districts in New York, including those that do not vote on budgets, was among the highest in the nation at $12,388 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 http://stateaid.nysed.gov/propcard_05.htm.

For a PDF file of tables showing proposed tax and spending increases in individual school districts in New York State, see http://www.ppinys.org/taxes/schooltax2005.pdf. Or, to receive e-mailed information on any specific school districts, call 518/465-7511.

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