December 6, 2011 – By now, you’ve probably heard about New York’s new tax levy cap legislation enacted in June. Many have referred to it as a “2 percent tax cap”, but this is a misnomer.
Whatever you call it, the new law will still affect Stillwater and districts around the state as they develop their budgets for 2012-13.
Like many laws, the details can be complicated and sometimes difficult to understand.
1. The “2 percent tax cap” does not actually limit a tax levy increase to 2 percent. It does, however, mean that any increase above a certain amount will require 60 percent of voters to approve the school budget.
2. That certain amount is called the “tax levy limit” and will vary by school district.
3. The tax levy limit is determined by a complex, eight-step formula that includes factors such as the growth in the local tax base (if there is any), the previous year’s tax levy, and the current and future years’ payments in lieu of taxes (payments the Federal government and other entities make to local governments instead of paying property taxes).
4. The rate of inflation or 2 percent (whichever is lower) is just one part of the “tax levy limit” calculation.
5. After a school district calculates its “tax levy limit,” it then adds exemptions into that amount. These exemptions allow the district to propose a tax levy greater than the amount set by the “limit” without requiring 60 percent of the voters to pass the budget.
6. These exemptions — or factors that “don’t count” against the cap — include voter-approved local capital expenditures; increases in the state-mandated employer contribution rates for teacher and employee pensions that exceed two percentage points; and court orders/judgments resulting in any amount that exceeds 5 percent of a district’s current levy.
7. Residents will vote on the school district budget on Tuesday, May 15, 2012.
8. If Stillwater’s proposed budget meets or stays below the “tax levy limit” (before exemptions), 50 percent of voters (a simple majority) need to vote “yes” for the budget to be approved.
9. If Stillwater proposes a budget that includes a tax levy above its “tax levy limit,” you will see a statement on the ballot required by law. You will also see the statement on the school district website. Sixty percent of voters would be needed to approve this budget.
10. The new law applies to the tax levy, not to tax rates or individual tax bills. What will happen to your tax bill — how much it may go up or down — cannot be predicted until a number of other factors are determined later in the year.