The following letter was send to school parents yesterday by Josh Nathan, president of the Rye City School District Board of Education about a state-wide local real estate tax cap being considered for schools. Nathan warns "This [potential state mandated tax cap] means that the District’s expenses to fund the educational program that continually ranks our schools among the top in the nation will be artificially and arbitrarily limited… the proposal would have the state determining our ability to fund our own program. The result potentially will be larger class size and inevitable program cuts."
When contacted for comment on the letter and potential state action, Assemblyman George Latimer told MyRye.com "I think the real change needed is to reduce the unfunded state mandates – if we do that properly all else will fall into place. For those in Rye and elsewhere who have low incomes, we can then establish a circuit-breaker provision to limit what the poor have to pay in school property taxes. The tax cap – while very popular politically (it appeals to those who hate property taxes or taxes in general, and in some communities, reflects political divisions) – won’t lower anybody’s taxes, and could well wreck a school system if the mandates stay in place."
Several weeks ago we sent you a copy of a letter from the Board of Education to Governor David Paterson that expressed the grave concerns we have about the proposed local real estate tax cap being considered for school districts by the Governor and legislators. I am writing again to ask you to voice your opinion now on this most important and urgent matter.
As you may recall, the proposed tax cap limits local property tax increases to 120% of the consumer price index with a maximum of 4%. If applied in 2008, the tax rate increase would have been 3.3% rather than 5.7%. This means that the District’s expenses to fund the educational program that continually ranks our schools among the top in the nation will be artificially and arbitrarily limited. Since the Rye City School District historically receives among the least amount of state aid to all New York school districts, our educational program is dependent on local property taxes. It is our community and our right and obligation to determine how our program is funded. Having that right taken away puts at risk our ability to meet the District’s needs. If a budget under the tax cap cannot meet the District’s needs, then the needs will not be met.
Therefore, regardless of enrollment growth in our schools, our class size guidelines, facilities needs, increases in fuel prices and other prices we cannot control, curriculum initiatives, sports and other after school programs, special education needs, and a host of state-imposed requirements on the District which the state does not fund, the proposal would have the state determining our ability to fund our own program. The result potentially will be larger class size and inevitable program cuts. The results could reach beyond that to athletics, enrichment, special education, educational support and those programs that keep our schools in the forefront of educational excellence. This is not the future any of us want for the Rye public schools.
Our community – the Board of Education, residents, and employees, work hard every year to keep increases as low as possible and still meet our commitment to provide an excellent educational program for our children. Each May, residents vote and decide as a community what can and cannot be afforded. The prospect of having Albany take that decision away from us at the expense of our children’s futures is extremely alarming.
The Board of Education has shared its views with the Governor and our legislators. This letter can be reviewed on the District’s web site, www.ryecityschools.lhric.org Current News, Board News. I am writing to ask you to share your views with the Governor and legislators as well, this week, since the State Senate is convening tomorrow to consider the tax cap proposal. You can reach the Governor and Legislators as follows:
Governor David A. Paterson
Albany, NY 12224
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver
Albany, NY 12248
Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos
Room 503, State Capitol
Albany, NY 12247
Assemblyman George Latimer
Albany, NY 12248
State Senator Suzi Oppenheimer
515 Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12247
Joshua C. Nathan
Rye City School District Board of Education