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Letter: Tax Collection Not Matching Budget Levels

Recently I paid my school tax bill. And again, as in prior years, I’m left wondering why the tax collections don’t seem to match the budgetary levels set by the school board at school budget time.

Item: Scope bulletin, published by The Roslyn Public Schools, May 2011, Vol. XLVI No. 2, Headline: “For 2011-12, Third Consecutive Budget with Little Change in Spending or Taxes.”

Item: Scope bulletin, May 2010, Vol. XLV No. 2, Headline: “Unanimous Board Approval for Consecutive 1% Budget.”

So why would my school tax rate be 20 percent higher (and the dollar amount of the school taxes 18 percent higher) for 2011-2012 versus what they were just two years ago (for the 2009-2010 school year)? After all, there weren’t any additions or upgrades made to my home that would explain this increase. This discrepancy in the school board’s budget proclamations, versus the taxes the district ultimately collects, has puzzled me for quite some time. So much so that during last year’s school budget phase, I attended the school board’s May 6, 2010 meeting (more on that another time), just to ask the board about this recurring issue. In a letter to The Roslyn News published in May 13, 2010, I mentioned that I did in fact ask the board about this, and wrote: “This year’s budget increase is 1.12 percent. If past experience teaches us anything, we can be sure the tax increase it triggers will not be an equivalent 1 percent. This discrepancy was not something the board was willing to discuss.” Indeed, at the time, my inquiry was brushed aside, and I was told that it doesn’t have anything to do with the school board; that it’s up to the Department of Assessment.

Well, apparently that is not true. After paying my taxes this morning, I went over and asked the Department of Assessment, “why, if the school budget increase is 1 percent per year, would my taxes increase 20 percent in two years?” They said each year the school board tells the assessor’s office how much money it will need to run the school district and the assessor then sets the appropriate level of assessment (i.e. “tax rate”) to raise the funds the school district asks for. That really got me wondering: Is the school budget process then simply an exercise in humoring the taxpayer, when the district knows it will ultimately get whatever funds it says it needs at tax time?

There probably is a very logical yet incomprehensible explanation for this switcheroo (and stealth additional funding) that the board’s high priced financial/legal team can easily explain. In the meantime though, somebody should tell the Roslyn School Board it’s not nice to fool the public again.

Nurhan Hamarat