School officials in the New Paltz Central School District last week discussed the revenue side of their upcoming 2022-23 budgeting calculations, in part to discuss the process for local tax cap calculations.
“Because from year to year nobody remembers except for business officials, and it’s a long, protracted formula, I want to make sure that everybody’s on the same page and understanding where we are and how we got there,” said Assistant Superintendent for Business Sharifa Carbon during a School Board meeting held on Wednesday, March 2
The maximum allowable tax levy for the 2022-23 budget is $46,557,878, an increase of 3.50 percent. The tax cap calculation is determined using five different factors: The current year tax levy, the tax base growth factor, the consumer price index (CPI), payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT) and capital and retirement exclusions.
Without changes in any of those factors, the maximum allowable tax levy increase would be 2.11 percent.
“There can be sticker shock when you hear 3.5 percent as a maximum allowable levy increase over last year,” Carbon said, particularly when the tax levy decreased in 2021-22 by 1.23 percent.
But 3.50 percent is not the highest the tax cap has been since being introduced in 2013. That first year, the district levied a 4.43 percent tax increase, the maximum allowed under the cap. The district also hit the cap in 2014 (2.36 percent), 2015 (4.24 percent), 2016 (1.22 percent), 2017 (2.34 percent), 2018 (4.38 percent), 2019 (3.98 percent) and 2020 (2.84 percent).
“It’s wild to see all the swings.,” said School Board President Bianca Tanis. “It’s like the weather: 20 degrees, 60 degrees.”
“Fortunately for the next school year…foundation aid, for the first time in a long time, is being addressed and increased statewide,” Carbon said. “It was very beneficial, because at the same time we’re working through federal funding and our other revenues. Our property tax revenue for this coming budget cycle, is actually less than it historically has been, even though there is an increase.”
Foundation aid for the NPCSD in Governor Kathy Hochul’s proposed budget is an increase of around $786,000, though that figure was offset by decreases in expense-based categories. The preliminary increase in state aid is roughly $279,000.
The local tax levy, Carbon said, usually represents around 70 percent of the revenue side of a school district budget. The 2022-23 budget will see a slight change in revenue source percentages from the 2021-22 budget, with property taxes anticipated to cover around 66.5 percent, compared to 64.3 percent last year. Another change is that federal funding is expected to drop from 4.1 percent back to pre-pandemic aid numbers of around 1.6 percent.
Carbon said another dynamic impacting the budget process is enrollment. The district currently has 1,809 students, projected to drop to 1,746 next year. The numbers are expected to be most acutely felt at Duzine Elementary, where they could theoretically fall from 336 to 305; and at New Paltz Middle School, where the current number of 447 is projected to fall to 417.
“We’re still decreasing, we’re just decreasing less than last year,” Carbon said.
The district’s enrollment has been steadily declining since the 2016-17 school year when it totaled 2,266.
“We have to be thinking about future budgets as well, and enrollment changes affect state aid,” Carbon said. “That is something to keep an eye on.”
The budget discussion covered revenues only, and therefore did not include a look at what the 2022-23 budget total might look like. But Carbon said that it is expected that the future beyond the next school year is expected to be considered in the process.
“One thing we have been talking about and looking at is how to position ourselves to be able to adjust over time to make sure that we’re still meeting the needs of our students and being as fiscally responsible as possible,” she said.
The School Board also discussed the NPCSD’s budget calendar, which includes a community budget forum during their next meeting, scheduled for Wednesday, March 16. The 2022-23 budget is expected to be adopted no later than Tuesday, April 19. The budget vote and School Board elections will take place at New Paltz High from 7:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. on Tuesday, May 17
The district’s current $64,940,103 budget passed by a margin of 910-193 last May.