Harborfields Board of Education members were unanimous that it is the right time to pierce the 0.37 percent tax levy cap.
At the March 5 board meeting, trustees agreed that the approximate $82.7 million budget, with a tax levy of 2.66 percent, is the best option for the district, because of the programs it would provide, including full day kindergarten, an additional librarian, and a third-grade strong program.
Referred to as Option 3 in the district’s presentation, this budget would require a 60 percent super majority vote and would not include New York State tax rebates for any residents.
“We are not being greedy,” Trustee Suzie Lustig said at the meeting. “We are being reasonable and our government has given us an unreasonable and unfair task of trying to fund this budget. We’re not putting in excessive electives. We are doing what is necessary for all of our children in grades k through 12 and that would be supporting Option 3.”
Option 3 is approximately $1.4 million more than the allowable tax levy budget for 2016-17, and costs include $120,000 for an additional special education teacher and two teacher’s assistants, $70,000 for a BOCES cultural art program and $600,000 for full day kindergarten.
Earlier this month, the district presented three options for next year’s budget.
Option 1, about $81.3 million, stays within the 0.37 percent tax levy of cap and would require cuts, as it comes in below what a rollover budget would cost the district.
Option 2 reflects a tax levy of 0.84 percent, and costs about $289,000 more than Option 1. It provides co-curricular activities at Oldfield Middle School and Harborfields High School, two additional teachers for grades k through six, and more.
Board members also agreed that the small tax rebate for the next year is another reason piercing the cap is favorable.
“Given the smaller amount of rebates that will be available next year, it would be less costly to pierce it this year than in the years that follow,” Trustee Nicholas P. Giuliano said at the meeting.
According to the budget presentation, the state tax rebate for 2016-17 is a uniform sum of $130, regardless of each homeowner’s gross income — with the exception of homeowners in the district who make more than $275,000, who do not receive a rebate.
Option 1 is the only budget where some residents would receive a tax rebate. But board members pointed out that the 2016-17 rebate is hundreds of dollars lower than years past.
“To me this year is the perfect storm,” Lustig said. “We have the lowest tax cap levy we’ve ever had; it’s practically zero. There will be only $130 for the rebate for those who qualify, and perhaps a big portion of our community may not get any type of rebate next year.”
Assistant Superintendent for Administration and Human Resources Francesco Ianni gave the presentation, and said that the district is still waiting to see if they will receive full restoration of the Gap Elimination Adjustment, which would help offset the costs for a budget with all the programs the community desires.