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NYSSBA on school budget results
May 16, 2012 - Chris Morris
Voters in school districts across New York state resoundingly passed school budgets on Tuesday. In fact, 96.4 percent of school budgets statewide were approved.
That's according to numbers compiled by the New York State School Boards Association. The group's executive director, Tim Kremer, said in a press release the results are a "ringing endorsement by voters of their public schools." He said the voting results "place an exclamation point on the fact that local school governance works."
Budgets passed in 651 out of 675 school districts, according to NYSSBA. That means just 24 budgets were defeated statewide.
In the North Country, the only defeat came in the Plattsburgh City School District, where voters overwhelmingly defeated the budget: 1,365 against, 729 for.
The Plattsburgh Press-Republican reports that the district asked voters to approve a budget that exceeded the state's new tax levy limit. The district would have needed a supermajority to get there; clearly, that wasn't in the cards.
Here's the rest of today's press release from NYSSBA:
This is the first year school districts have had to contend with a property tax cap. Six hundred twenty-three districts, or 92.8 percent, were at or below their maximum allowable tax levy increases under the cap, and required a simple majority to pass their budgets. Of those districts, 99.2 percent passed.
Forty-eight districts, or 7.2 percent, had budgets that exceeded the tax cap and required a 60 percent “supermajority” to pass. Of those districts, 60.4 percent passed their budgets.
Last year, taxpayers approved 93 percent of school district budgets. The average passage rate since 1969 is 84 percent. The average passage rate for the last five years leading up to this year’s vote is 94 percent.
“The voting public has once again shown its strong support for education. Voters recognized that school leaders did everything they could to comply with the spirit and intent of the property tax levy cap,” said Kremer. “They were responsive to their communities.”
“But keeping within the tax cap required sacrifices,” he said, adding that 99 percent of districts needed to use reserve funds to make ends meet. A majority of districts also cut teaching and non-teaching positions as well as programs and services.
The average statewide tax levy increase of 2.3 percent for 2012-13 is more than a full percentage point below the average of 3.4 percent in 2011-12.
The average proposed spending increase for the 2012-13 school year is 1.5 percent, compared to 1.3 percent in 2011-12, 1.4 percent in 2010-11, 2.3 percent in 2009-10, 5.3 percent in 2008-09, and 6.1 percent in 2007-08.
Kremer cautioned that with dwindling reserve funds, districts are going to need significant mandate relief from the state. While linking state aid to personal income growth sounds reasonable, he said, “we have to recognize that the cost of doing business in New York is simply higher than other states and that has repercussions for school districts. Moreover, outdated state laws such as the Triborough Amendment make it difficult for school districts to get long-term concessions.”
In school districts where the budget failed to pass, a second vote may be held on June 19. School boards may forgo a second vote and adopt a contingency budget. Under state law, a contingency budget requires zero percent growth in the district’s tax levy.
On Tuesday, voters also filled vacancies on their local school boards and voted on separate propositions to fund such needs as school construction or bus purchases.
“Congratulations to all of the newly elected school board members,” said Kremer. “Serving on a school board is one of the most significant and honorable ways to contribute in a local community.”
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