SHERBURNE – The public’s perception that their property taxes can’t increase by more than 2 percent is making it difficult for at least one school district in Chenango County.
During budget-setting meetings this quarter, the Sherburne-Earlville Board of Education asked administrators to keep any budget increase to a maximum of $130,000, or just under the New York State imposed 2 percent cap. For the current school year, taxpayers agreed to a $29.5 million spending plan that called for an average tax levy increase of 1.9 percent. The board expended $1 million from set-aside reserves to stay under the cap, which went into effect for the first time in June 2011.
But spending down set-aside reserves to stay within what is being perceived as state law is not necessary, said SECSD Assistant Superintendent Todd Griffin. “No board nor administration wants to put an excess burden on their taxpayers, nor do they want to do it to themselves, but the public’s perception that government entities must keep increases within the 2 percent cap is inaccurate,” he said.
Chenango County Real Property Tax Services Director Steve Harris explains that Albany’s historic new law is not actually a directive. Communities may raise or lower property taxes according to the needs of the locality. If the taxpayers want to pay more taxes they can, and they can override the cap with a 60 percent vote for schools and by a 60 percent vote of the governing body for local governments. Towns, counties and villages can even pass local laws saying they want to exceed the cap. Or, they could just exceed it and roll over the amount into a reserve account and apply the amount plus interest to the next year’s budgets before determining the levy.