New York's school districts are continuing to navigate the complexities of the state's tax levy cap law.
The law is neither an automatic cap, nor does it limit tax levy increases to the often reported "2 percent." Instead, the law prescribes an eight-step formula for districts to calculate a figure that is known as a "tax levy limit."
Because each district calculates its own "tax levy limit," the figure will vary by district.
New York residents will still vote on school budgets each May. However, rather than capping tax levy increases, the legislation dictates the level of voter support that is required for a school budget to pass. This is why officials often refer to their calculated limit as a "tax levy threshold."
If a district's proposed tax levy is at or below its tax levy threshold, the support of a simple majority of voters (more than 50 percent) is needed for budget approval. If the proposed tax levy exceeds its tax levy threshold, the support of a supermajority of voters (60 percent or more) is required for budget passage.
Produced by the Superintendents' Legislative Committee of Capital Region and Quester III BOCES.
Under New York State law, if a district's initial budget proposal is defeated in May, it can propose a second budget to voters in June. If a second proposal is not successful, the district must adopt a contingent budget. The tax cap law changed the ramifications of a contingent budget, which was previously a cap on spending. Under the law, when a district has two budgets defeated, its tax levy is capped at its current level - which in effect is a zero percent cap.
The tax levy is the total amount that a school district collects in taxes from all property owners within the district. Tax rates determine the amount individual property owners will pay on their school tax bills; tax rates are based on the total tax levy and assessment levels within and across the four towns in the district. Because of the various factors involved in assessment levels, all of which are beyond the district's control, the change from year-to-year in the tax levy and tax rates are often different.