LWEC: Modify the Tax Levy Cap
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Dear Elected Representative:
As a parent of the Public Schools of The Tarrytowns, I am deeply concerned about the burden that the 2011-enacted Tax Levy Cap has placed on our schools. The law, as written, has put many New York State school districts – The Public Schools of the Tarrytowns included – under significant financial stress by mandating that the tax levy be capped at a two percent increase each year. The tax levy cap, along with the burden of funding existing state mandates, is making it increasingly difficult for our Board of Education and administrative team to fund the necessary programs and services that are vital to maintaining a high quality public education. The tax cap needs to be modified to avoid further cuts that negatively impact our children’s education.
The Public Schools of the Tarrytowns (as well as most other school districts) has been efficient and effective with the public's funds and has already endured years of tough budgeting cycles. Numerous cuts to programs and services have allowed the district to maintain an average spending increase over the last five years of 2.67%. These cuts leave the district with no choice other than to cut non-mandated programs directly related to providing a quality education to our students (i.e., AP courses, music and art, athletics, and the laying off of teachers resulting in larger class size).Costs that are difficult – if not impossible – to control, such as pension and health insurance contributions continue to increase. These costs alone make it extremely difficult to conform to the tax cap.The reserves of The Public Schools of the Tarrytowns are depleting. To date, the district has managed to avoid damaging program reductions by relying on its reserves, but this is only a temporary solution.No significant mandate relief has been enacted, which is causing The Public Schools of the Tarrytowns and other school districts to cope with outdated, unnecessary and expensive mandates that they are required to provide. Money necessary to comply with these mandates is desperately needed elsewhere in order to maintain important programs and services for our students.
DON’T LET OUR PUBLIC SCHOOLS SUFFER! I request that you make the following easy modifications to the tax cap, which will ease the burden on our district’s budget and help to preserve the quality of our schools:
EXEMPT TRS/ERS pension and health insurance costs from tax caps on school budget increases. The state should cover these increases; therefore the tax cap would apply only to a district’s expenses in connection with programs and services. For note, The Public Schools of the Tarrytowns project that the increases associated with TRS/ERS pension costs alone will account for 80.2% of our allowable tax levy cap, while health insurance costs will require 71.2% of the allowable tax levy increase. In other words, these two items alone, over which the district has no control, exceed the district’s allowable tax levy increase under the cap.
EXEMPT all security expenses incurred by school districts. The Public Schools of the Tarrytowns are now faced with additional security issues. A continued tax cap will impede our schools' ability to maintain the safest possible environment for all students and staff.
REDESIGN the tax cap to be a 2% cap on a district’s expenses rather than on the tax levy.
ALLOW districts wishing to pierce the tax cap to do so by getting a simple majority and not a super majority of the vote.
ELIMINATE the need for a public vote if the district’s budget is under the tax cap, as elections are expensive to conduct.
The tax levy cap, coupled with the burden of funding existing state mandates, will threaten the quality of our schools. Our district cannot continue on this track – please make the modifications to the tax levy cap so that the quality of my children’s education does not suffer.
LOWER WESTCHESTER EDUCATION CONSORTIUM Support The Public Schools of the Tarrytowns: An Action Plan! The Public Schools of the Tarrytowns have always thrived because of strong parental involvement, which supports our mission of creating a vibrant and caring learning community. Our children have benefited not just from academic classes taught by exceptional teachers and administrators, but from a strong commitment to the arts, sports, world languages, enrichments and after-school programs. Over the past few years, however, events have conspired to endanger our school district – and school districts all across New York State. The Lower Westchester Education Consortium (LWEC) was created last year when parents and superintendents from neighboring school districts met to determine the best way to advocate for our schools. This group has now grown to include representatives from 12 public school districts in Westchester and Rockland County, including: Ardsley Dobbs Ferry Eastchester Edgemont Elmsford Hastings Irvington North Rockland Rye Neck The Tarrytowns Valhalla Yorktown Central