East Ramapo voters will return to the polls Tuesday after defeating the proposed budget by more than 2,000 votes last month. The revote on the $191.9 million budget comes as the district and teachers union have agreed on a tentative contract after months of negotiations. The contract limits raises, requires new hires to contribute more toward health insurance and increases class sizes in middle school and high school.
The 24 school districts whose budgets failed last month have reduced their levies by an average of 46 percent in advance of Tuesday’s budget re-votes, according to the New York State Association of School Business Officials. They used money from already depleted reserves and cut additional staff and programs to reduce their proposed spending, the group said.
Twenty-one of the 24 school districts are proposing levies at or below their cap, but three districts did not change the percentage increase in the tax levy, including East Ramapo (1.91 percent), the Bolivar-Richburg school district in Allegany County (2 percent) and Oysterponds in Suffolk County (2.5 percent).
The statewide pass rate for school budgets May 15 was 96.4 percent. There are roughly 700 school districts in New York. This is the first year the state’s new 2 percent cap on tax levies is in place. The average statewide increase in the tax levy was 2.3 percent.
Districts whose budgets were not approved can hold a second vote Tuesday, or they can forego the second vote and adopt a contingency budget. Districts can’t increase tax levies under a contingency budget. They used to be able to increase spending by 4 percent or 120 percent of the rate of inflation, whichever was less, if the second budget vote failed, said Michael Borges, executive director of the Association of School Business Officials.
To exceed the cap on the tax levy, districts have to get a pass rate of at least 60 percent, a higher threshold than for budget proposals that are within the cap. Sixty percent of districts with budgets that were higher than the tax-levy cap received support from a supermajority of voters, the state School Boards Association found.
This is a chart provided by the Association of School Business Officials: