Q: How do I vote on June 9?
A: There are no polling places for the 2020 School Budget and Board of Education vote. Instead, all registered voters will receive absentee ballots in the mail. Qualified voters who are not registered may request an absentee ballot by submitting an absentee ballot request form, which can be found here.
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.
All who wish to vote should complete the absentee ballot and return it in the postage paid envelope provided. The completed ballot must be received at the district office by 5 p.m. on Tuesday, June 9 to be valid. The votes will be tallied and the results announced on June 10.
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 supermajority (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. This year’s tax levy limit for Pine Bush was a whole percentage point higher
than what the Board of education approved and is putting before the voters on June 9. The Board felt that reducing our tax levy limit below the maximum allowable was a way to recognize the economic hardship felt by many during this pandemic.
Q: How would the proposed budget affect my taxes? Is it within the cap?
A: The proposed tax levy increase of 2.58 percent is a full percentage point below the tax levy limit that is calculated for 2020-21 through a prescribed state formula. As a result, the budget requires the support of a simple majority (50 percent + 1) of voters to be approved.
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 for 2020-21 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.
The Pine Bush Board of Education and administration have determined that there will be no second vote if this budget is defeated, due to the current circumstances with the COVID-19 pandemic. The budget must be in place for July 1, 2020, the beginning of the district’s fiscal year. Since this vote has been moved to June 9, 2020 and is an all absentee vote election, time would not allow for another mail-in vote and the legal notices required.
Therefore if voters defeat this budget, the board will adopt a contingent budget and cut $1,549,269 in programs and staff.
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: What would be cut under a contingent budget for 2020-21?
A: If Pine Bush adopts a contingent budget for 2020-21, the district would have to cut $1,549,269 from school programs, staffing and equipment.
Q: What is a fund balance and how does it help offset the amount of my school taxes?
A: A fund balance is created when a district receives more revenue than expected and/or spends less than the amount budgeted. As part of the 2020-21 budget, Pine Bush will not use any of its undesignated fund balance.
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.
Q: Are there any changes to the STAR program this year?
A: Two changes to the STAR program were enacted in the state’s budget this year.
Taxpayers who have property tax bills “that remain unpaid one year after the last date on which they could have been paid without interest” are not eligible for STAR savings. Homeowners will be excluded from the STAR program until past-due property taxes are paid.
There is an extension to the enrollment period for Enhanced STAR filers. The fiscal year 2019 state budget required all Enhanced STAR recipients to enroll in the Income Verification Program. The enrollment period was reopened to allow homeowners who failed to register last year to retroactively verify their income. 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: Did the Property Tax Relief Credit expire?
A: Yes. Through the Property Tax Relief Credit, property owners in districts that complied with the state’s property tax cap received a check each year. The credit expired as of this year and was not renewed in the recently adopted state budget.
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: What is the “Pandemic Adjustment”?
A: In an effort to deal with the financial challenges brought on by COVID-19, this year’s state budget includes a state aid reduction for all public schools, the “Pandemic Adjustment,” that totals $1.1 billion statewide. This is entirely backfilled for each district by federal stimulus funds for 2020-21. While the federal stimulus offers relief this year, it remains to be seen if and how this will be applied to state funding in future years. The Pine Bush Pandemic Adjustment for the upcoming school year is $655,836.
Q: What are the “look back periods” in the enacted state budget and how might they affect schools?
A: The enacted state budget authorizes the state to review its revenue and expenses on an ongoing basis so it can determine its financial state. The year will be divided into three measurement periods: April 1 – April 30, May 1 – June 30 and July 1 – December 31. If the state’s revenues within these “look back periods” is less than 99 percent of the projected revenue, or its expenditures are more than 101 percent of projections, the state Division of Budget can reduce aid for schools and local governments. According to language in the budget, school districts that have their aid reduced may be repaid at a later date. Though we have already completed one measurement period, the state chose to make no adjustments, hoping that more federal stimulus dollars will be provided to state and local governments to assist with the challenges from our current public health crisis.
Q: How and when will I receive my absentee ballot?
A: This year, the typical absentee voter qualifications and applications are being waived. The Pine Bush Central School District sent the absentee ballots with prepaid return envelopes to all registered voters on May 27. If you are a qualified voter but not registered and wish to vote, you must download, complete and sign an Absentee Ballot Request Form. The form can be scanned and emailed to the district clerk at Debbie.firstname.lastname@example.org or dropped off to her at our district office as soon as possible.
Q: Am I a qualified voter?
A: If you are a U.S. citizen, at least 18 years old and have been a resident of the district for 30 days or more prior to June 9, and are not otherwise disqualified, you are a qualified voter in the 2020-21 school budget vote and board election
Q: I got my absentee ballot. 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 pre-paid return envelope. If your A: oath envelope is unsigned or missing, your vote can not be counted.
Q: I made a mistake. Can I get a new ballot?
A: If you tear, deface or wrongly mark your ballot, contact the district clerk at Debbie.email@example.com immediately for instructions on how to obtain a new ballot.
Q: When should I send my 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. If your ballot does not arrive at the district by 5 p.m. on Tuesday, June 9, it will not be counted. If you’re afraid it will not arrive in time by mail, you can drop it into the secure red mail bag at our District Office Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Q: What happens when the district receives my ballot?
A: The district will collect and hold onto all the ballots until the June 9 deadline. The results will be posted to the school’s website on or around June 10 at 5 p.m. The ballots will be opened, separated from their oath envelopes and counted throughout the day on June 9. The counting procedure will be video monitored and that video will be live streamed on the day the counting takes place.
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: Is the absentee voting process different due to the COVID-19 pandemic?
A: The district has prepared, sent out and counted absentee ballots to qualified voters for many years, and will follow that same procedure this year, only on a larger scale.This year, all voting is being done via absentee ballot, whereas in previous years, most voters cast ballots in person.
Q: Is the process open to the public?
A: The annual school budget vote is an official public meeting of the district, and as such, it is open to the public.Due to the COVID-19 restrictions, access will be available via a livestreamed video feed to our website.
Q: How can my vote be confidential if the count is open to the public?
A: Since ballots are separated from personally identifiable information before they are unfolded and counted, the public counting process is anonymous. No one viewing the counting of ballots will be able to match a voter’s personally identifiable information with their specific ballot.
Q: When will the results of the budget vote and board election become available to the public?
A: The Pine Bush Central School District will begin the counting process on June 9. How early this begins will be determined by the number of ballots received in advance. It could be as early as 8 a.m. or as late as 1 p.m.The results will be available as soon as all ballots have been accounted for, but no later than 5 p.m. on June 10.
Q: Whom do I contact if I have any additional questions?
A: Please contact the district clerk Debbie June with any questions at Debbie.firstname.lastname@example.org or call 845-744-4023.