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Rye City Schools Seek Tax Cap Override

"Vote Yes" signs popped up on City of Rye lawns since May 8 as Friends of the Rye City School District and PTO groups try to sway 60 percent of Tuesday's voters to override a tax cap, allowing a 4.36% tax increase above the allowable 2.49 % levy. Photo Credit: Jon Craig
No tax cap override vote is planned in neighboring Harrison, but a sign outside Harrison High School reminded residents on Saturday of the "Statewide School Budget" May 19. Photo Credit: Jon Craig
Tuesday's Rye City School District Budget Vote runs from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Rye Middle School Gym. Photo Credit: Jon Craig
A sign along Coolidge Avenue near Park Avenue in Rye earlier this month. Photo Credit: Jon Craig

WESTCHESTER, N.Y. -- Parent coalitions are leading "Vote Yes" campaigns on Tuesday in the Rye City School District and Edgemont Union Free School District . Supporters of public education in those communities seek to override the state's property tax cap on their proposed school budgets for 2015-16. 

A statewide budget vote among nearly 700 public school districts includes 37 in Westchester County.

A 60 percent "supermajority" yes vote is needed in either school district to raise property taxes under a state law set to expire in June 2016, unless the tax cap is made permanent by the Senate Republican majority.

Rye's vote is at Rye Middle School from 7 a.m. until 9 p.m. on Tuesday. Edgemont's vote is at Edgemont High School's Jim San Marco Gymnasium from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Rye parents said they distributed hundreds of "Vote Yes" lawn signs, with voting hours and location on the back, as well as nearly 1,800 "Vote Yes" car magnets seeking a school budget passage. Organizers last week said requests for the yes-vote promotions had outpaced supplies. 

Rye's proposed budget totals nearly $82.9 million, including a 6.85 percent tax increase or 4.36 percent on top of the allowable 2.49 percent property tax levy.

A Rye City School District spokeswoman said Rye and Edgemont -- as well as 25 additional school districts outside of Westchester County -- are seeking tax cap overrides. In 2012-13, 44 school districts statewide sought an override. Last year, the total dropped to 19 school districts before rising again this spring. 

The Edgemont school budget was projected to increase by about 1.8 percent next year, but because of tax certioraris which reduced the assessed value of property in Edgemont, the school tax increase of 2 percent will be slightly above the state mandated tax cap.  As a result, state law requires the budget to pass by a “supermajority” of at least 60 percent of school district residents voting "yes."

Last year’s tax hike of 2.42 percent involved a budget-to-budget year increase of 2.92 percent. Because of the way the tax cap algorithm is calculated, the tax hike last year was within the state mandated cap, which meant Edgemont's budget only required a "simple" majority of 50 percent support from residents to pass.

During the past decade, as Edgemont schools continued to rank among the best in the country, its school budgets typically were passed by the largest vote margin of any of Westchester's 39 school districts.

Edgemont's decision to exceed the tax cap this upcoming school year is based on projections in future years that suggest if the cap is exceeded in the next budget, future tax rate increases can be managed more predictably, avoiding large spikes. A link to Edgemont school administrators' rationaleo for exceeding the tax cap can be found here.on streaming video at the top of the district's web page.

Rye's proposed school budget includes use of $1.3 million from reserve funds that currently total nearly $10.5 million. Bob Zahm, a former school board member, objects to the use of reserve funds to balance the budget and allow spending increases. Zahm submitted a separate "No Vote" opinion piece to Daily Voice. 


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