A 5% School Tax Increase Is Too Much

The Board of Education has a very tough task creating a budget for our schools. The many mandates that they must accommodate eat up funds, as do worthwhile new programs such as all-day Kindergarten, as well as higher enrollment. On the other side of the ledger, they have to be mindful of how much they are increasing taxes. As currently proposed, I think a 5% increase in school taxes is too much. Taxes in Rye are very high as it is, and a jump of that magnitude in a low-inflation environment is excessive.

Reflecting this low rate of inflation, the State tax cap is set at 1.62%, according to The Rye Record’s March 6 article. The tax cap was instituted to arrest what had been a rapid rise in New York’s property taxes, which are among the highest in the country.

I think it’s a good discipline, at the very least because it forces the discussion we are having now. Last year, the Board of Ed created a new Utility Tax to get around the limit. This year, they’re just blowing past it. Other school districts have to be facing the same issues with mandates and pension requirements that we do. Maybe I’m naïve, but isn’t there some means to collectively push back on these mandates? Or is raising taxes just so much easier a course of action?

The other issue that the Board has cited is enrollment. Where are all these kids coming from? We have all seen new houses spring up where we thought none could be built, and more houses undoubtedly lead to more children in school. But a new house also enhances the tax base, and that revenue should support additional students. The only other thing that I can think of is that family size has contributed to the increase. I have no empirical data, but I know quite a few families with four or more children that didn’t live here two years ago. I have to believe that this is not just an isolated observation.

Here’s an idea that is apt to be enormously unpopular: a per capita surcharge for families with more than [pick a number: three] children in the public school system at one time. If my next-door neighbor and I both pay the same property tax, but he has five kids in school when I have two, one of us is getting a much better deal than the other. I can’t think of many other systems that allow one fee for an undetermined number of users. Even my family health-care plan has structured individual deductibles for each person in the family. There might be some legal/legislative prohibition to a per capita charge, but I think it would be worth investigating.

So, a couple of thoughts on the school budget: taking the State that caps taxes to task for imposing mandates and/or opting for a different approach to taxes. Whether you have kids in school or not, we all realize that when you buy a house, you sign on to supporting the schools. We all know that property values and the quality of schools are tightly correlated. We all want good schools, and we all know we have to pay for them. But reaching ever deeper into taxpayer’s pockets is not the way to do it.

— R. Fisher



School Budget 2.5 Times Larger Than State Tax Cap

Why would the Rye City Board of Education disregard the State tax cap? Over 90% of New York State school districts comply with it. The rest of us must live within our means, why not our BOE? The Board failed to mention that their budget will also deny all homeowners’ tax credit.

Rye homeowners will be subjected to a big tax increase and loss of their tax credit. Is that fair?

Many Rye residents feel resigned to having no choice when it comes to the Board of Ed. Some have said they feel marginalized and that a small vocal group is never said no to by the BOE.

The overall community has been very supportive of our schools. We deserve the same support from the BOE. Please revise your budget to within the State tax cap.

— Chris Cohan


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