The South Orangetown Central School District 2022-2023 school budget passed with 67% of the vote on May 17. The approved budget totals $101,554,865 and reflects a 3.41% budget-to-budget increase and a 2.77% tax levy increase. The budget remains within the state-mandated tax cap.
Voters also approved Proposition #2, which extends the time period for the District’s existing Capital Reserve Fund by 10 years (through 2036) and increases the ultimate amount of the Fund by $10,000,000 to offset future capital projects.
2022-23 Budget Newsletter (English | Spanish)
Board of Education 2022-23 Proposed Budget Presentation (April 19, 2022)
2022-23 Proposed Budget Book
2022-23 Property Tax Report Card
NEW: School Property Tax: Frequently-Asked Questions
What has SOCSD done to contain costs while maintaining high-quality educational programming and supports for students?
A: The District carefully monitors expenditures and revenues to ensure that it has the resources it needs for all students to be successful, while maximizing efficiency, reducing the overall burden on taxpayers and ensuring long-term financial stability. Ongoing cost-saving measures include competitive bidding and cooperative purchasing; participation in an energy purchasing service and Workers’ Compensation Consortium; utilization of BOCES cooperative services, including special education and technology; and, outsourcing services, such as food service, transportation, cleaning and landscaping.
Further, as enrollment declined between 2009-2020, the District realized substantial staffing reductions primarily due to attrition. This helped to contain staffing costs, which comprise the majority share of any school budget. More recently, the District has leveraged COVID-19 relief funds to address student needs and made targeted, structural reductions to areas such as supplies, materials and select contractual expenses to mitigate rising retirement, health insurance and transportation costs, which account for $2 million–nearly 60% of the 2022-23 budget-to-budget increase.
What causes the budget to increase each year despite the District’s cost containment efforts?
Staffing–salary and benefits–comprises more than 70 percent of our school district budget each year. Increases in health insurance and retirement benefits are key drivers of budget increases, as are rising transportation costs. In fact, increases in retirement, health insurance, and transportation expenses total more than $2 million – almost 60 percent of the budget-to-budget increase this year.
In addition, the District is seeing increased demand for student supports, such as mental health and special education services. Based on utilization trends, the District is projecting a six percent increase in students eligible for special education services (grades K-12) and a 23 percent increase in children ages two to four who qualify for preschool special education services in 2022-23.
What is Proposition #2 about?
Capital reserve funds are created with voter approval and must be used by a school district within a certain time period for capital work. School districts use these savings to reduce the tax impact of needed major capital projects on their communities and to decrease interest and other costs for bond issuance.
If approved, Proposition #2 would extend the time period for the District’s existing Capital Reserve Fund by 10 years (through 2036) and increase the ultimate amount of the Fund by $10 million to offset future capital projects. The Capital Reserve Fund currently totals $19.4 million; however, $18 million was allocated by voter approval in March to partially fund the 2022 Capital Improvement Bond Project. Proposition #2 would allow the District to replenish its savings over the next several years by being fiscally prudent and capturing savings to the extent possible from the annual general budget.
Will the 2022 Capital Improvements Bond project impact the tax levy for the 2022-23 school year?
No. The 2022 Capital Improvements Bond project will not impact taxpayers during the 2022-23 budget year. The $49.9 million voter-approved project includes $18 million from the District’s Capital Reserve Fund. These monies will be applied to project costs first–before the $31.9 million bond is used.
Is the proposed tax levy increase within the cap?
Yes. The South Orangetown Central School District Board of Education has remained within the tax levy limit every year since the property tax cap law went into effect in 2012.
One component in New York State’s tax levy limit formula is the Allowable Levy Growth Factor, which is limited to the lesser of 2% or the change in the Consumer Price Index (CPI). This year, the change in CPI is 4.7%. In addition, the tax levy limit formula allows for capital exclusions which reflect the year-over-year change in capital spending from previously budgeted funds, but not from capital reserves or fund balance. Capital exclusions are increased for 2022-23, which contributes to a higher maximum tax levy limit while remaining within the tax cap.
Can you explain what the tax cap, CPI and the tax levy are?
New York State passed legislation which went into effect in 2012 to regulate property taxes levied by school districts and local governments.
An accounting formula–the Levy Limit Formula–was developed by the Office of the State Comptroller for school districts to calculate the maximum allowable amount of property taxes that can be billed (the tax levy) to fund their annual budgets.
A key feature of the legislation–and the formula–is the “tax cap,” which limits the annual increase in the amount billed to either two percent or the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for the previous calendar year. There are some exceptions built into the formula for items such as capital expenditures that allow the tax levy increase to exceed two percent but remain within the maximum allowable levy limit.
Individual property tax bills are based on a number of factors, such as property assessments and equalization rates, which may cause them to increase more than two percent.
What happens if voters reject the budget?
If voters do not approve the proposed budget, the Board of Education may put forward the same or a revised budget for a second vote OR adopt a contingency budget with a tax levy no greater than what was levied last year. If voters reject the spending plan twice, SOCSD must adopt a contingency budget which would require the District to reduce the 2022-23 proposed budget by $2,313,935. As a result, the minor capital project amount of $2,000,000 and all district-wide equipment expenditures would be eliminated. Community use of facilities would be restricted, support staff and instructional positions would be reduced, along with various athletic and extraclassroom activities.