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For Release — Tuesday, May 2, 2006

SCHOOL DISTRICTS AGAIN PLAN TO RAISE SPENDING
AT TWICE THE INFLATION RATE, STUDY FINDS

ALBANY—School districts across New York State plan to increase per-pupil spending by twice the rate of inflation, and raise property taxes by more than $900 million, a new "School Tax Watch" study by The Public Policy Institute finds.

The proposed 2006-07 school budgets submitted for voter consideration on May 16 would raise average spending 6.2 percent, to $16,469 per pupil. That figure represents an increase of nearly one-third in per-pupil spending, more than 2.5 times the rate of inflation, over the past five years. The 6.2 percent average increase in per-pupil spending this year matches those in both 2005 and 2004.

Overall school spending would rise by more than $1.5 billion statewide under the proposed budgets. Enrollment is expected to remain about the same as this year, with districts projecting an average increase of 0.1 percent. Property taxes would rise by just less than twice the rate of inflation. In the last five years, school taxes statewide have jumped $4 billion, according to the Institute.

Voters in some 700 school districts around the state will consider 2006-07 budget proposals Tuesday, May 16. State law requires each district to inform the state 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 600 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. Some 50 districts whose budgets require voter approval, and are required by law to submit spending and tax data to the Education Department, did not do so by this year's deadline.

The Institute's analysis of school-budget increases includes average spending and tax increases for all districts in each county outside New York City. For the first time, districts in Nassau and Westchester plan to spend an overall average of more than $20,000 per pupil. Rockland County districts are close behind, with overall average spending of $19,724 per pupil under the proposed budgets. Statewide, 27 individual districts plan to spend more than $25,000 per student in the coming school year.

Per-pupil spending is generally lower Upstate, but varies significantly from region to region, the Institute found. Erie County school districts, for example, plan to spend an average $13,257 per pupil, while average spending in Monroe County would be nearly $1,000 higher per student. Average tax collections per pupil in Monroe County districts would be $1,957 higher than those in Erie County, and nearly $1,000 higher than Onondaga County school districts'.

This year's proposed school budgets continue a trend of annual increases in school spending and school taxes that have been far above the inflation rate. The Public Policy Institute has issued its annual "School Tax Watch" report since 1999. Previous reports are available at http://www.ppinys.org/schooltax.html.

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 second-highest in the nation at $12,930 per student in 2003-04, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That year, state aid to public schools in New York, at $6,269 per student, was 38 percent above the national average.

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/2006schooltax.pdf.

All of the Public Policy Institute's previous School Tax Watch reports are available here.

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