Since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic and the shuttering of businesses and schools, everyone has tightened their purse strings.
Last week, Pleasantville School District officials adjusted the proposed 2020-21 budget to reduce school taxes so property owners will see no increase in their tax rate next year.
“We are clearly in a situation that’s an economic emergency,” Superintendent of Schools Mary Fox-Alter. “We feel it’s fiscally prudent to do this now.”
To keep the tax rate flat and reduce the levy, $650,000 is being taken from the district’s fund balance, said Assistant Superintendent for Business Timothy Whipple. Previously, the 2020-21 draft budget had appropriated $353,129 from fund balance.
Before revising the budget last Tuesday, district officials proposed a property tax levy of $38,557,951, an increase of 1.329 percent from the current year. Because of the nearly $300,000 being taken from fund balance, the levy increase now stands at .789 percent, which is $1.1 million under the allowable limit.
Based on the current assessment data available, the tax rate is expected to remain flat for 2020-21. Total revenue in next year’s budget is estimated at $52,752,591.
“We are trying to be cognizant of what everybody is going through by keeping taxes as flat as possible,” said Board President Angela Vella. “This is the right time for us to utilize our reserve, more than in other years.”
Pleasantville property owners whose assessments will be unchanged are expected to see no tax increase. Homeowners who have made upgrades that impact their property assessment will likely see a negligible increase in their school taxes. Trustees also mentioned that Pleasantville has seen growth in the last year, which has kept the overall tax rate even.
“I think we are very well positioned (financially) for the next two to three years,” said Whipple. “We weaned off using the fund balance over the last six or seven years by truly balancing our expenses and revenues that has allowed us to weather the storm like of a pandemic magnitude we’re now in.”
Fox-Alter expressed her gratitude to the board, which is facing extreme uncertainty because of plummeting state revenues, which could result in drastic cutbacks in state funding. Earlier this week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said unless the state receives significant federal aid, there could be as much as a 20 percent cut in education than what was approved earlier this month in the Fiscal Year 2021 state budget.
“I’d like to thank the board for their fiscal stewardship in this emergency,” Fox-Alter said. “This has allowed us to make a decision which is best for the taxpayers and our students.”
No date has been set for the rescheduled budget vote and school board elections. Cuomo issued an executive order on Mar. 29 moving the vote to sometime in June.