Q: Am I qualified to vote in the school budget and board of education vote?
A: A qualified voter is anyone who is:
- 18 years of age or older
- a resident of the Pine Bush district for at least 30 days
- a United States citizen
- and not otherwise disqualified through Election Law Section 5-106.
Q: What is the difference between the tax levy and tax rate?
A: The tax levy is the total amount of money a school district raises in taxes each year from all property owners in the district.
Tax rates are calculated by dividing the total amount of the levy by the total taxable assessed value in a community. Tax rates are affected by changes in both municipal assessments and state equalization rates, which are determined in the summer. Tax rates are also impacted when the value of all taxable property either increases or decreases. When new development occurs, for example, the pool of taxable properties grows, and the tax levy is spread over a larger tax base, thus reducing the collective burden on all taxpayers. The tax rate is used to calculate each individual property tax bill.
Q: What is an equalization rate?
A: As the name implies, equalization rates are intended to spread the tax burden across all municipalities (cities, towns and/or villages) within the school district as fairly as possible. In New York state, each municipality determines its own level of assessment. The rates are intended to “equalize” or balance these differences within the same school district. For example, one municipality’s assessments may be more recently updated than others, and property values don’t change equally in all municipalities within the school district.
A municipality’s equalization rate is set by New York state to reflect a municipality’s level of assessment. It is calculated by dividing total assessed value by total market value.
- An equalization rate of 100 means that the municipality is assessing property at 100 percent of market value.
- An equalization rate of less than 100 means that the municipality’s total market value is greater than its assessed value.
- An equalization rate of greater than 100 means that the municipality’s total market value is less than its assessed value.
You can find additional information on equalization rates and links to local assessment rolls here: https://tax.ny.gov/pit/property/learn/eqrates.htm.
Q: What is the tax levy limit, or tax cap?
A: The tax levy limit is the highest allowable tax levy (before exemptions) that a school district can propose as part of its annual budget. When staying at or below the tax levy limit, budget proposals can be approved by a simple majority of voters (50 percent + 1). Any proposed tax levy amount above this limit would require budget approval by a super majority (60 percent or more) of voters. The tax levy limit sets a threshold requiring districts to obtain a higher level of community support for a proposed tax levy above a certain amount.
Q: How would the proposed budget affect my taxes?
A: Residents’ tax bills are determined by several factors that are out of the district’s control, including assessment levels and equalization rates, which are set by the New York State Office of Real Property Services, including any additions to the tax rolls through new development or reductions secured by property owners who successfully appeal to have their taxes lowered.
The final tax rates cannot be determined until the summer when final assessments and equalization rates are available.
Q: What happens if the budget is defeated?
A: Under New York state law, if the school budget is defeated, the board of education typically has two options: put the same or a modified budget up for another vote, or immediately adopt a contingent budget.
Q: What is a contingent budget?
A: State law mandates that under a contingent budget, a school district must adopt a budget with no tax levy increase and eliminate all non-contingent expenses, such as certain student supplies, certain equipment purchases and the free community use of school facilities (the district must charge a fee). The administrative budget would also be subject to certain restrictions.
Q: How could STAR reduce my school taxes?
A: New York State’s School Tax Relief Program, or STAR, provides partial school property tax savings to eligible homeowners. Most New Yorkers who own and live in their homes are eligible for STAR savings on their primary residences. There are two STAR programs, Basic and Enhanced, with different eligibility requirements. More information can be found at: https://www.tax.ny.gov/pit/property/star/eligibility.htm.
Q: Are taxpayers’ STAR savings factored into the budget?
A: No. The STAR program is tax relief for homeowners paid for by New York state through state taxes. This tax relief for homeowners does not affect the school district budget.
More information about the Enhanced STAR Income Verification Program can be found here: https://www.tax.ny.gov/pit/property/star/ivp.htm#enroll.
Q: What are BOCES services and BOCES aid?
A: Boards of Cooperative Educational Services, or BOCES, provide shared services to school districts as a way to pool resources and share costs. Sharing allows districts to provide programs and services that they might not be able to afford otherwise. A district using BOCES services for the current school year is reimbursed a portion of the cost of the services in the following school year by New York state. The amount returned to each district varies by service and is based on a formula that takes into account the district’s financial resources.
Q: Why do salaries and benefits comprise so much of the budget?
A: It takes many people to create and maintain a safe and productive learning environment for nearly 5,000 children in Pine Bush schools. Employees teach, coach and care for the community’s children. They clean buildings, mow playing fields, order supplies and make decisions so that schools run effectively and efficiently. The district has more than 800 employees, including many part-time staff members. Every year, approximately 70 percent of the district’s budget goes to pay salaries and benefits.
Q: I requested an absentee ballot and received it. Now what?
A: Once you receive your ballot, carefully read and follow the directions. Sign and date the oath envelope where indicated. Place your ballot in the oath envelope and then place the oath envelope into the return envelope. If your oath envelope is unsigned or missing, your vote can not be counted.
Q: When should I send my absentee ballot back to the school district?
A: Fill out and return your ballot as soon as possible after you receive it. Ballots must be returned by mail by using the enclosed prepaid return envelope. You ballot must arrive at the district office by 5 p.m. on the day of the budget vote.
Q: Why do I have to sign my name on the envelope?
A: Just as voters are asked to sign a register when they vote in person, voters using absentee ballots are asked to provide a signature. This signature constitutes an affidavit — you are attesting to your identity as a voter who is qualified to cast a ballot in this election. This information is recorded on the district’s voter rolls — a list of names of all the people who cast ballots.
Q: Is my vote still confidential?
A: Yes. While your name will be registered on the district’s voter rolls, your ballot will be separated from the envelope that bears your name, return address, or other personally identifiable information before the envelope holding your ballot is unfolded and counted.
Q: Whom do I contact if I have any additional questions?
A: Please contact the district clerk Maria Wise with any questions at email@example.com or call 845-744-4023.