School Voting Tuesday

Levies allowed to increase despite state cap

    Residents in school districts around the state will vote on budgets and school board candidates on Tuesday, following a season of slashing and burning as many of the districts struggled to remain under Albany’s newly-imposed 2-percent property tax levy cap. Positions have been terminated and programs have been reduced or, in some cases, eliminated completely in order for districts to come into compliance.
    Locally, only Amagansett’s board has decided to pierce the cap, given increased enrollment and therefore increased tuition for Amagansett students attending the East Hampton Middle or High School. In Springs and East Hampton, even though the budget totals are lower than the current year’s, tax rates have increased due, in both cases, to lowered revenues.
    The tax rate is not the same as the property tax levy, and districts have been permitted by the State Department of Education’s series of complex directives to exempt certain expenses — such as capital projects, fund balances, and tuition  — from the calculation of the final amount to be raised by taxes. The tax cap limits only the tax levy, not the tax rate or the budget. Because of the exemptions, the tax levies in every local district are actually increasing by more than 2 percent.
    Amagansett has proposed a budget of $9.67 million, a 5.21-percent increase over this year’s budget of $9.2 million. The estimated tax rate increase is 3.89 percent, reflected as $28.49 per $100 of assessed value compared to $27.42 per $100 this year. The budget will need a supermajority of voters, over 60 percent, in order to pass. In Amagansett’s case, the increased amount to be raised by taxes is greater than its exemptions allow. Mary Lownes, the incumbent, is running to retain her seat on the board. She is being challenged by Rona Klopman.    
    Springs has proposed a budget of $24.63 million, .84 percent below this year’s $24.84 million budget. A tax rate increase of 3.19 percent is due to almost $1 million lost in non-tax revenue, according to Colleen Card, the district’s business administrator. The rate of $88.97 per $100 of assessed value is the highest in the five districts in East Hampton Town, and is marginally higher than 2011-12’s $86.22 per $100.
    John Grant, an incumbent, is running to retain his seat, and he is challenged by Dennis Donatuti, the former principal of the John M. Marshall Elementary School.
    East Hampton has a proposed budget for 2012-13 of $62.84 million, a 2.43- percent decrease from this year’s budget of $64.4 million. The decrease was achieved in four months of budget workshops, a series of cuts, and early retirement incentives. There is an estimated tax rate increase of 3.18 percent, reflected as $47.45 per $100 of assessed value compared to 2011-12’s $45.99 per $100.
    Liz Pucci is running unopposed to retain her seat. Christina DeSanti, running for the seat being vacated by Laura Anker Grossman, also is unopposed.

    Montauk has a proposed budget for 2012-13 of $18.5 million, a 2.2-percent increase over this year’s $18.1 million budget. The estimated tax rate increase of 2.87 percent is reflected as a tax of $53.16 per $100 of assessed value compared to 2011-12’s $51.68 per $100. Kelly White is running unopposed to retain her seat on the board.
    Wainscott has a proposed budget for 2012-13 of $3.5 million, a 2.11-percent decrease over this year’s budget of $3.58 million. There is an estimated tax rate increase of 2.24 percent, reflected as $18.20 per $100 of assessed value compared to 2011-12’s $17.80 per $100. Kelly Anderson is running for the seat vacated by Iris Osborn; David Eagan is running unopposed to retain his place on the board.
    The 2-percent tax-levy cap has been imposed until at least 2016, meaning that for school districts across New York, there is more slashing and burning to come.