By Jane Lee Bock
Huntington schools have taken a big step toward ensuring that local taxpayers continue to see some money back in state rebates this year.
School districts have formed a consortium to help reign in expenses, implementing one more of the mandatory steps needed to comply with the regulations of the three-year state property tax freeze credit.
The credit is a new tax relief program that reimburses qualifying homeowners for increases in local property taxes on their primary homes, according to the program’s website. The credit applies to school districts in 2014 and 2015 and to most other municipalities in 2015 and 2016.
Cold Spring Harbor school district has been designated the lead agency for the consortium and is partnering with Western Suffolk BOCES to coordinate the plans and submit them to the state by June 1, 2015. In total so far, 19 districts are eligible to participate in this joint effort. Northport, Huntington, Harborfields and Cold Spring Harbor have officially joined the consortium.
In 2014, New York property owners received a rebate if their school district stayed within the state’s 2-percent property tax cap when developing its budget. In 2015, property owners will get a rebate if the districts demonstrate that they have plans that will develop efficiencies and cost savings, and their local municipal taxing districts stay within the tax cap. In 2016, the rebate requirements will be aimed at only municipalities, requiring them to stay within the tax cap and develop cost savings.
The state estimates this three-year program will result in $1.5 billion in taxpayer savings. This consortium meets the requirements of the government efficiency plan component of the property tax freeze credit.
No specific savings have been announced yet because the plans have to be submitted and approved by the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance and any savings created by efficiencies implemented before 2012, when the freeze was initially created, are allowed to be included in each district’s component of the plan.
“What they have allowed us to do is that if we had some prior efficiencies that were instituted prior to June 2012, which is the first year of the tax cap, we can use that towards demonstrating our savings,” William Bernhard, interim assistant business superintendent of the Cold Spring Harbor school district said in a phone interview. “Many districts had to do that to stay within the tax cap.”
In addition, by grouping the districts together, they will be required to save one percent of their tax levy combined, instead of individually, he said. Those savings must be realized through the 2016-17 school years.
Bernhard said he hasn’t seen the full plan yet because the information has not been submitted.
Visit www.tax.ny.gov/pit/property/property_tax_freeze.htm for more information on the property tax freeze credit program.