In 2011, the New York State Governor, Andrew Cuomo, enacted the Property Tax Cap, a law that he stated was instituted to “deliver relief to millions of homeowners and business owners across the state who for too long have been burdened by out-of-control property taxes,” as quoted on the governor’s website at the time of the bill’s passing.
Under this law, according to the governor’s website, property tax increases would be capped at 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is less. Local communities and local voters could override the cap with a 60 percent vote on the budget for school boards or relevant legislative bodies.
So it was of great surprise, on May 20, when I received an email from the Owego Apalachin School District that an article, written on May 16 and published on May 19 in The Owego Pennysaver was deemed incorrect because of a reference to the percentage of the school budget’s proposed tax levy increase, or 3.83 percent, as exceeding New York’s tax cap.
While drafting the article, which was brief, I fact checked by visiting the New York State Comptroller’s arcane website to verify the tax cap. But I soon learned that I didn’t dig deep enough.
Within it there are provisions to the state law that would allow the school’s budget proposal, at 3.83 percent, to be in conformity with the two percent tax cap. One of those was a provision having to do with pension liabilities, tax levy carry-overs, etc., that allow for the tax levy to be increased without its exceeding two percent. (See www.osc.state.ny.us/localgov/realprop/pdf/legislationsummary.pdf.)
I felt that in order to make a correction, or clarification, I needed to better understand the issues surrounding these provisions, and if this was one of the catalysts that left my reporting in error.
I needed to be educated.
I fielded questions to the Board of Education and asked for their assistance in helping me to understand the complexities on how and why the 3.83 percent was formulated to be in compliance with what Cuomo himself championed as legislation to deliver nothing but relief to homeowners.
The district was gracious enough, on Thursday, to send detailed information about the budget vote, and to offer links that might give voters some answers. One of those links is www.tax.ny.gov/pit/property/school-district/tioga.htm, in which it is noted that the Owego Apalachin School District complied with the tax cap.
With this information at hand from the district, I rightfully stand corrected.
The district also sent some other links that readers will find useful for gaining answers. For updated budget information, visit www.oacsd.org/BoardofEducation.aspx; for information on the tax levy formula, visit www.osc.state.ny.us/localgov/realprop/schools/files/formula.pdf. To view the school district’s compliance, visit www.tax.ny.gov/pit/property/school-district/tioga.htm.
With the originally proposed 2019-2020 School Budget being defeated by voters on May 21, the Board of Education reconvened, and at the May 30 regular Board of Education meeting, according to school officials, voted unanimously to revise the budget and take it out for a revote on June 18.
The new budget presents a 1 percent decrease from the originally proposed levy, and is now at 2.83 percent, which, once again, is within the allowable tax cap. If this vote fails, they will move to a contingency budget, resulting in a $483,847 reduction to the overall budget.
The district is also holding budget information sessions. They kicked off with a live question and answer session online on June 6, and will continue with a session on June 10 at the Apalachin Library at 5 p.m.; on June 11, an official public budget hearing will take place at the Board of Education Room at 6 p.m.; on June 12, a session will take place at the Coburn Free Library at 1 p.m.; on June 13, a session will take place at the Boys & Girls Club at 10 a.m.; on June 13, the Board of Education will hold a meeting and deliver a budget update at 7 p.m.; on June 14, there will be a session at the Tioga County Visitors Center on Front Street at 8:30 a.m.
In the meantime, and although our political policy is only relevant to candidates and elections, we are going to restrict comments and letters regarding the school budget until after the vote on June 18 to allow fairness, and to also allow readers to visit these links or attend sessions and stay informed.