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School Superintendents speak to tax caps

Governor Andrew Cuomo's property tax cap proposal could mean trouble for many school districts.

In the coming weeks, the governor plans to enter into legislation a cap that would apply to all school districts, as well as local governments. Designed to protect property owners from skyrocketing property taxes, the cap prevents an increase in any district's tax levy (amount raised through property taxes) above 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is less. However, with a 60 percent majority, residents have the ability to override the cap during budget elections.

While this is good news to property owners, district administrators find the solution shortsighted.

"This is extremely limiting," said Skaneateles School District Superintendent Phillip D'Angelo. "It's going to start to have a negative effect. We're trying to not impact educational programs."

He said the fact that the district is first dealing with state aid being cut, then Skaneateles' portion of sales tax revenue from the county being reduced and now capping the property tax, it's to fast for what the district is trying to accomplish.

"A cap is a rather blunt instrument to control costs," said James Rodems, assistant superintendent for management services with the Baldwinsville Central School District. "It is an easy political fix to rising taxes. What it doesn't consider is the fact that some of these cost increases, especially pensions and health insurance, are outside of our control."

State mandates

Other factors driving up costs are mandates imposed onto school districts by the state.

"The new commissioner of education said he was going to try and lessen the mandates, which would give school districts more autonomy, but mandates have only gone up," D'Angelo said.

For example, there is a new graduation requirements proposal that includes each student receiving four years of math and four years of science. D'Angelo said it's a great idea, but it's hard to accomplish without hiring more teachers.

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