CHATHAM – The Board of Education discussed tax rates and tax levies at this week’s meeting, with schools Superintendent Cheryl Nuciforo addressing assessments and the impact they have on the school budget.
The Tuesday, November 30, meeting also saw the swearing in of new board member James Marks. Mr. Marks was appointed to fill a vacant seat on the board after an application and interview process earlier this month. He will serve on the board until the annual budget vote in May, when voters will have a chance to pick someone to serve a full, three-year term. Mr. Marks may run for that term if he chooses.
Student Ryan Behrens was honored for his successful participation two fall sports. WNYT Channel 13 news honored him as Dunkin Donuts’ Student Athlete of the Week, and a cameraman was at the meeting Tuesday to record Ryan receiving a certificate from the school board acknowledging his success in balancing academics with participation on the soccer and football teams. He was the kicker on the football team.
Board President John Wapner opened the meeting with a moment of silence for Patrick Curry, a long-time Chatham Middle School employee who died November 22.
Ms. Nuciforo talked to the board about the difference between tax rates and tax levies, reminding board members that the levy is the total amount of revenue in the school budget to be raised through taxes. The tax rate, usually expressed in tax dollars for each $1,000 of assessed property value, determines how much each taxpayer must contribute to pay for the levy. The goal when setting the tax rate, she said, is for equality across communities, with the owners of properties of equal value paying the same amount, regardless of where they live in the district.
“The only thing that is controlled by the district is the tax levy,” said Ms. Nuciforo. She noted that tax rates are set by property values and can change with reassessments.
She talked about the impact on reassessments in the towns that make up the school district. “The tax levy ‘pie’ is redistributed according to new assessments,” she said in a PowerPoint presentation to the board. She said that reassessments adjust for people who have been paying more or less than their fair share over time. “We don’t set individual tax rates, we set the tax levy,” said Ms. Nuciforo.
Board member David O’Connor asked about different assessments in different communities. He talked about tax rates going down in Canaan after reassessment, meaning other homeowners in the district will have to pay more to make up for the difference. Since the assessments are based on the property values in the community, he wondered whether assessors are looking at what’s fair in their town but not at the whole district.
“We don’t get to have any control over the assessments,” said Ms. Nuciforo.
Mr. O’Connor pointed out that the board proposed a tax levy in the last budget that was slightly higher than 2% higher than the levy the previous school year and that voters had approved the increase. But he said that his school taxes in the Town of Ghent went up 5.2%. “Even in a great budget year,” he said of the low tax levy, “the increase was passed on.”
“There is a real unfairness to use property tax to fund schools,” said board member Mike Clark.
The next board meeting will be Tuesday December 14 at 6:30 p.m. in the High School Library. The board plans to discuss fundraisers as they affect the school budget.