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For Release — Thursday, May 3, 2007

SCHOOL DISTRICTS PROPOSE PLANS TO RAISE SPENDING AT
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 www.ppinys.org/taxes/schooltax2007.pdf. Or, to receive e-mailed information on any specific school districts.

ALBANY—Armed with a record increase in state aid, school districts across New York State plan to increase average per-pupil spending by twice the rate of inflation, a new "School Tax Watch" study by the Public Policy Institute finds.

Statewide, proposed school budgets in the "School Tax Watch" sample would increase per-pupil spending to an average $18,035. That figure represents a 6 percent increase – twice the estimated 3 percent rate of inflation. The proposed increase includes the record $1.7 billion increase in state aid provided in this year's budget. Total school property taxes in these districts would increase by nearly $700 million, to $16.5 billion.

Overall spending would increase to $28 billion, a $1.6 billion increase from the previous year. At the same time, enrollment is expected to remain flat. The per-pupil property tax levy is expected to increase by 4 percent, down from the previous year's increase of 6 percent.

Voters in some 700 school districts around the state will consider 2007-08 budget proposals Tuesday, May 15. 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.

Of the more than 600 school budgets analyzed, only 74 districts proposed spending plans that would include a spending increase at or below the inflation rate. Of those, 17 were in the Downstate suburban counties.

Spending in the Downstate suburbs would average $21,997 per pupil – 32 percent higher on average than the budgets proposed by Upstate districts. The proposed per-pupil tax levy in Downstate districts is $16,674 – 131 percent higher than the Upstate average of $7,223.

Downstate districts anticipate a total enrollment increase of 0.2 percent, while their Upstate counterparts expect to see the number of students shrink by 0.5 percent.

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 www.ppinys.org/schooltax.html.