Jamestown Public Schools is proposing a modest 1.5% tax levy increase to help close a $5.2 million gap in funding for the 2015-16 Budget. This is the first proposed tax increase in five years. In addition, the District will also use $1 million from its fund balance (rainy day savings account), reduce 16 staff positions through attrition with no staff layoffs, reduce funding for professional development, and decrease overall expenditures.
“We understand the burden that is placed on taxpayers and have been mindful of that during our decision-making process by not proposing a tax levy increase for the past five years. It is very important for taxpayers to know that even though we are proposing a tax levy increase, NYS has informed school districts of its intention to issue tax rebate checks to taxpayers to offset the increase, as long as districts meet the tax cap legislation requirements, which JPS has,” said Board of Education President Joe DiMaio. “We have worked very hard to balance the budget and still maintain staffing and programming needs that directly benefit our students and make JPS unique. We are asking the public for their help in supporting the proposed budget during these difficult financial times for the District.”
In order for the public to better understand the proposed tax levy increase; here is some additional information:
Q. How often has JPS increased taxes in past years?
A. JPS has had a 0% tax increase in each of the last five years. If the proposed tax levy increase for the 2015-16 school year is averaged over the past five years, it would be an increase of only 0.3% per year, well-behind the rate of inflation.
Q. How much would my taxes increase with the proposed tax levy increase?
A. For example, on a $50,000 property in Jamestown a 1.5% tax levy increase would result in an additional $14.80 on your tax bill providing all other criteria remain the same. On a $100,000 property your tax bill would increase by $29.60. Please be aware that the final calculation of individual property taxes is driven by equalization rates and assessment changes that will not be official until August.
Q. Did JPS stay under the NYS tax cap?
A. Yes, the proposed tax increase of 1.5% is well-below the tax cap, which calculated for Jamestown Schools, is 3.25%. The public should be aware that NYS does not prohibit tax levy increases greater than two percent. The law dictates an eight-step formula that each school district must use to calculate its individual tax levy limit, which in JPS’ case is a 3.25% cap.
Q. How would the 2015-16 Budget change if the district did not raise its tax levy?
A. To avoid burdening local taxpayers with a tax increase, JPS found alternative ways to balance the budget for the past five years, including: cutting over 120 staff positions in the school district and depleting JPS’ total fund balance from $9 million in 2010 to $3.4 million in 2015. Despite on-going challenges, the JPS Board of Education worked diligently to minimize impact on the quality programming and instruction that directly benefits students.
Q. How does the proposed tax levy increase influence the JPS 2015-16 Budget?
A. By proposing a tax levy increase, the District raises its revenues by $219,623. If there were no tax levy increase, an additional $219,623 would need to be cut from the 2015-16 budget potentially affecting personnel, programming or both.
Q. I have heard that there is a taxpayer refund. Will JPS taxpayers qualify for a refund of the proposed tax increase?
A. Yes. New York State has indicated that it will refund taxpayers if a school district meets the tax cap legislation. The district must demonstrate that it had a 1% savings in operating expenses. JPS can easily demonstrate more than a 1% savings and meet all of the tax cap legislation requirements. In mid-May, JPS will submit an application to the state requesting the taxpayer rebate. JPS is confident that it will qualify for the rebate and taxpayers will receive a refund equal to any proposed increase in the school tax levy.