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Yorktown Calls for Tax Hike to Fund School Budget

For the 2012-2013 academic calendar, the proposed $92,080,000 budget represents an increase of 1.05 percent over this year's budget.

Yorktown school administrators say they are committed to staying below the mandated 2-percent tax cap, as they had done for several years. 

For the 2012-2013 academic calendar, the proposed $92,080,000 budget represents an increase of 1.05 percent over this year's $91,125,000.

Superintendent of Schools Ralph Napolitano explained that while adhering to the 2-percent tax cap with the allowable exclusions, the associated tax levy increase is 2.36 percent. That has resulted in a tax rate increase of 2.44 percent for the town of Yorktown taxpayers within the district, or the equivalent to $224.9 additional per year for the typical Yorktown homeowner, per $10,000 of assessed value. 

The 2011-2012's tax rate increase was equivalent to about $9,222, while next school year's tax rate is equivalent to about $9,447 per year in school taxes (or an additional $224.9 per year) for the typical homeowner, with a home assessed at $10,000.

"The difference between the levy increase and tax rate increase is based upon the declining values of properties in the town of New Castle which requires the towns of Yorktown and Cortlandt to assume larger shares of the tax burden," school officials said. 

This budget is the first in which the school district will feel the effects of the new property tax cap. The legislation was enacted in June 2011, starts with the 2012-2013 school year, and is set to expire in June 2016 unless rent control is enacted.

Under the cap, the tax levy may not exceed the prior year’s by more than 2 percent, or the rate of inflation, whichever is less. The 2011-2012 budget was a 1.32 percent increase from the previous year. It increased the tax levy—which is the total amount of property tax revenue collected by the district—by 1.99 percent.

"Over the last few years, we have been able to stay under the tax cap without being asked to do so," said Napolitano, who explained that the five years prior to his arrival, the average tax levy increase was 7.8 percent.

Overriding the cap would require a 60-percent super-majority. Last year, 1,037 people who headed to the polls , while 562 voted against it. 

During Monday's board of education meeting, Napolitano said 72.15 percent of the school's budget goes toward salaries and benefits; 12.50 percent is contractual costs and 6.73 percent goes toward . (Check out the photos above for more information). The majority of the budget is funded by taxpayers and about 15 percent comes from state aid, he said.

School administrators said the district is $800,000 below the tax cap requirements for the proposed budget, but going forward staying under the tax cap would not be easy.  to state and , declining state aid, depletion of cash reserves and the tax cap, districts will be forced to rethink what they can afford to offer to their students, Napolitano said. 

There are 151 state and federal unfunded and underfunded mandates the district has to deal with, which equates to about 17 percent of the school's budget, or $18 million. In addition, tax certioraris, which are lawsuits that require school districts and municipalities to pay out big chunks of money to business property owners who have challenged their assessments in court and won, present a challenge to the Yorktown school district. Administrators are required to make a payment within 30 days. 

"The strength of our community is derived from the strength of our schools," Napolitano said. "I don't think I ever want to lose sight of that no matter how the economy changes."

Assistant Superintendent of Business Tom Cole said the original budget-to-budget increase was 0.6 percent, but that changed after the district allocated money from the fund balance to pay for the . He said they wanted to reserve the money for the project, which is currently at a standstill, in case BOCES were to declare an emergency.

The Yorktown district is one of five school districts that . Cole said if the project moves forward, Yorktown's share will cost the district $1.1 million over three years. 

The Yorktown board of education is expected to vote on the proposed budget during their April 9 meeting. The public will vote on the budget on May 15 at . 

Editor's Note: The article has been updated to clarify that $224.9 is additional per year increase is for the typical homeowner, per $10,000 of assessed value. Unfunded and underfunded mandates equate to about $18 million of the school's budget, not $18,000.

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