[Home Page] [This Week] [Classifieds] [Legals] [Obituaries] [Newsstands] [Subscriptions] [Advertising] [Deadlines] [About Us] [FAQ] [Archives] [Community Links] [Contact Us]

Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, August 19, 2010

Keeps surplus $365K
GCSD board sets tax rate at $20 per $1,000, as promised

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — Guilderland residents will pay just what the district estimated for school taxes — $20.04 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

This means the owner of a $100,000 home in Guilderland will pay $2,004 in school taxes.

Before the May vote on the $87.4 million budget for 2010-11, the school district projected a tax-rate hike of 3.59 percent, equal to the 69-cent increase it adopted Tuesday.

The school board was presented with two options in setting the tax rate. Because assessments in the town of Guilderland are higher than had been expected, the district has extra revenues. In round numbers the assessed property values for Guilderland went from $2.75 billion last year to $2.765 billion this year, an increase of $13.7 million. The district, as it has in recent years, used a conservative estimate when drafting the budget, assuming the assessment would remain flat.

The board could keep the tax rate as projected in May, holding back $365,000 to increase its surplus, or it could reduce the tax hike to 2.96 percent, which would have set the rate at $19.91 per $1,000 for Guilderland residents.

The board voted, 8 to 1, to set aside the extra funds, keeping the tax rate as predicted.

Board member Allan Simpson, who was elected in May, cast the sole dissenting vote. “Taxes keep going up and up,” said Simpson, who works as an accountant. “This is an opportunity…We can give people back some saving grace,” he said.

“I would agree except for the state-aid variable,” said board member Emilio Genzano, who was recently re-appointed to the board after being ousted by Simpson.

While the state legislature passed a budget two weeks ago, over four months late, figures on state aid to individual schools still have not been released.

Assistant Superintendent for Business Neil Sanders said that Guilderland was still using the figures for state aid proposed by the governor in January. If the state bases its aid allocation on a more recent database, Sanders said, it could change the amount that Guilderland receives.

By law, the school district can’t have more in its fund balance than 4 percent of next year’s budget. Even with the added $365,000, Sanders said that Guilderland’s fund would be under that mark.

Several board members said it was prudent to bank the extra funds because of the current economic crisis.

Board President Richard Weisz said, if the state aid figure were established, he’d “split the difference,” setting half the surplus money in the rainy-day account and using the other half to lower the tax rate. But, he said, if the state aid decreases by more than 1.5 percent, “We’re in a mess.”

“When our friends and neighbors went to the polls,” said board member Colleen O’Connell, “they said, ‘We’re comfortable with 3.59 percent.”

“It doesn’t make any sense to not put it into the fund balance because we’ll be struggling,” said board member Judy Slack.

“We didn’t just hear arguments about taxes last year,” said board Vice President Catherine Barber. “We heard about preserving programs.”

Tuesday’s vote was the reverse of last year’s tax-rate vote.

Last year, the board voted, 6 to 1, to use the extra money from rising Guilderland property assessments to reduce the tax rate — to $19.34 per $1,000. That was the first time in memory that Guilderland school taxes went down. Last year, the district administration had recommended the board decrease the taxes; this year, the district administration recommended saving the surplus.

The sole dissenting vote last year was cast by Julie Cuneo, who has since moved out of the district. She cited “uncertain financial times,” not knowing what the state budget will allow in school aid, and also district goals for the upcoming year in supporting teachers and teachers’ aids. “We’re still meeting the taxpayers’ expectations,” Cuneo said.

Asked yesterday why the district had changed its recommendation from last year, Sanders said, “The change in philosophy was because [last year] it really was a bad economic time that we were into with the crash of the stock market and the high unemployment rate; we wanted to give the taxpayers a break. Now, we’re in a prolonged economic recession and we have to look at the future of the Guilderland School District.”

Sanders concluded, “There is no recovery on the horizon. We need to look, for the long term, at protecting programs for our students, knowing that New York State may be in difficulty for years to come.”

While 93 percent of the district’s tax base is in the town of Guilderland, pieces of the district lie in three other towns. Because assessment practices vary from town to town, the state sets an equalization rate so that residents with like properties, regardless of which town they live in, are paying the same amount in taxes.

Residents of Bethlehem, where the equalization rate is 97 percent (as opposed to Guilderland’s 85 percent) who live in the Guilderland School District will pay $17.57 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, an increase of  $1.12 or 6.8 percent from last year.

Residents of New Scotland, where the equalization rate is 94 percent, will pay $18.13, which is $1.85 more than last year, an increase of 11.4 percent.

And residents of Knox, which hasn’t revalued property town-wide in years, where the equalization rate is 57 percent, will pay $29.89, a decrease of 70 cents or 2.28 percent less than last year.

[Return to Home Page]