Schools struggled to override tax cap

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Tempt the state’s property-tax cap, and schools were likely to fail.

budgetvoteThat was the takeaway from Tuesday’s school-budget votes across New York, where budgets that stayed within the cap easily passed. Those that sought to seek a 60 percent vote to override the cap largely failed, a review by the state School Boards Association found.

Ninety-six percent of school budgets passed, and 98 percent passed for those that stayed within their cap limit — which on average allowed for a tax-levy increase of about 5 percent.

Of the 27 districts that sought to override the cap, only 30 percent were successful, the School Boards Association said. Budgets failed in wealthy schools like Scarsdale and Briarcliff Manor in Westchester, as well as upstate districts like Elmira Heights.

“Residents in communities across this state stood strong once again in support of public education,” said Timothy Kremer, the group’s executive director. “The high level of voter support for school budgets speaks to the importance of public education. We appreciate the trust that voters place in our school board members and educators.”

Schools statewide proposed an average tax levy increase of 2.8 percent for the 2013-14 school year, which starts July 1.

The average proposed spending increase was 2.9 percent, which was double was it was in last year’s budget vote. The increase was largely fueled by pension costs that grew on average by 40 percent — which also gave schools more wiggle room under the cap.

Districts that had a budget fail will seek a re-vote on June 18. If a budget fails a second time, districts would have to adopt a contingency budget that allows for zero percent growth in a district’s tax levy.

Here’s our interview with Kremer in our studio today:

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