Presentation outlines how tax levy cap law’s complexities will fundamentally change the way school districts deliver programs.
New York state’s property tax levy cap law will ensure the poorest school districts never leave what Statewide School Finance Consortium Executive Director Dr. Rick Timbs refers to as the “red box.”
What is the red box?
There’s a scattering of dots, representing school districts, on a graph Timbs often uses in his presentations on school funding inequity in the state. The graph compares the districts’ combined wealth ratios (property value + income) on the X-axis of the graph, with the aid cuts they sustained during the “gap elimination adjustments” of the 2010-11 school year on the Y-axis.
The most dense cluster of dots – the poorest school districts — resides within a big, red box on the graph. All hover around combined wealth ratios of 1.25 or lower. And as the graph shows, all sustained the deepest cuts to education aid.
That’s what Timbs told a crowd gathered at Glens Falls High School on Nov. 29 to hear a presentation on understanding the property tax levy cap law. The crowd of about 80 represented five school districts in the Glens Falls region: Glens Falls, Queensbury, South Glens Falls, Abraham Wing, and Hudson Falls.
The crowd whispered to one another. Some laughed nervously. “Scary,” one person said aloud.
Before hearing this stark news, the crowd had listened to Michele Levings, Director of the State Aid and Financial Planning Service at Questar III BOCES give a frank, data-driven talk on the law’s many complexities – including the fact that it’s “not really a cap.”
“It just sets a higher threshold for voter approval of school budgets,” she explained. Further, the “cap” itself is far from a simple addition of 2 percent to the current year’s tax levy. “The tax levy limit calculation contains eight steps, with 12 different numbers needed to complete the formula,” she explained. That limit determines whether a district’s budget passes with 50% voter approval or requires 60% voter approval.
In other words, according to Timbs and Levings:
Complex tax levy cap + inequitable education aid =
GRIM OUTLOOK FOR DISTRICTS IN THE RED BOX
“What can we do to make a difference?”
When one board of education member in the audience asked this question, Timbs quickly responded: “You need a constituent effort to change legislators’ minds.” He recommended that stakeholders in public school districts – not just in the Glens Falls region, but across New York state – let their legislators know they are not happy with the inequitable way state education aid is distributed in the state.
For more information about the Nov. 29 presentation:
- View live tweets from the presentation.
- Visit the Statewide School Finance Constorium website
- Visit the Questar III State Aid & Financial Planning Service
- Stick with Education Speaks for the latest news and information, including our video interview series with Dr. Timbs which will be shown over the coming weeks!