Q. Why does the school budget always seem to go up more than the rate of inflation?
A. The rate of inflation is not a fair measure for schools, since the Consumer Price Index is based on the rising cost of food, clothing, cars, and housing- not on the raising costs associated with school budgets such as health insurance, liability insurance, and retirement fund contributions. For example, in 2011-12, increases in these three areas alone account for over 50% of the proposed budget increase.
Q. The state may not have passed its budget when the Board of Education has to adopt the school budget, so how does the district know how much state aid it will receive?
A. Until the state passes its budget, we will not know exactly how much to expect in state aid next year, but school districts are still required to present their budgets to voters on the third Tuesday in May. To meet that mandate, the district has to estimate its state aid revenues. This year, as in previous years, the district will use the governor’s proposed state aid figures.
Q. When the state adopts its budget, what happens if the district ends up receiving more state aid than was estimated?
A. If the state budget includes additional aid for the district and it is adopted before the district must set its tax levy in August, then the additional revenue could be factored in when determining the tax rates. If the state budget is adopted after the tax rates are set, any additional monies will be applied to the district’s fund balance.
Q. How does the district use surplus funds to lower the tax rate?
A. The district is able to generate a surplus by receiving more revenue than expected and/or by spending less than budgeted. The term “fund balance” is used to represent the amount of the surplus. One of the ways Cato-Meridian was able to lower the projected tax rate for 2010-11 to below four percent was to use fund balance of $400,000. Yet committing this level of surplus to lower the tax rate impacts the district’s ability to weather unanticipated expenses or loses in revenue.
Q. I’m still not sure I understand how the Town reassessment will affect my school taxes. If my assessment doubles, does that mean that my school tax bill will automatically double, as well?
A. No. When trying to calculate the impact of a new assessment, residents cannot simply multiply the new assessment by the old tax rate. Calculations will need to be done on an individual basis. How your school taxes are impacted will depend upon your new assessment, how it compares with all other assessments in the district and the projected new school tax rate.
Q. Does the reassessment change the total amount of taxes the school district must collect? Will it result in a windfall of new revenue for the school district?
A. Absolutely not. With a reassessment comes a shift in the tax burden to those whose property values have risen faster than average. The amount of school taxes collected for 2010-2011 is the same as it would have been without the reassessment; the reassessment merely redistributes the total.
Q. What are equalization rates and how do they affect our taxes?
A. It is fairly common in school districts for taxes to be collected from more than one town. Our school district boundaries encompass the towns of Cato, Conquest, Ira, Sterling, Victory, Lysander, Granby, Hannibal and Butler. Each town may have assessments at varying rates of market value. The New York Office of Real Property Services is charged with the responsibility of determining an “equalization rate” for each town. This factor, applied to the Town’s total assessment, creates an assessment value that equates to full market value. The equalization assessment values by Town (not the actual assessed value of the Town) are then used to apportion the amount of the tax levy or total amount of taxes to be collected by the school district. This process is intended to ensure that each town is assessed their fair share of school taxes based on the market value of the properties within the town.
Q. Who is eligible to vote? Where do I vote?
A. To vote in the election, you must be 18 years old, a U.S. citizen, and a resident of the school district for at least 30 days prior to the vote. You must vote in the Elementary School 8th Grade Cafeteria, Cato, New York. Polls will be open from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.