Since Clarkstown School District officials learned that the town added a one percent on the school tax bill, they have been looking at ways to offset that unexpected taxpayer expense. Some of the options explored are charging the town for its use of school district buildings and fields and finding a bank or other entity that can collect the school taxes for less than $1.5 million.
Neither option appears ideal as Assistant Superintendent for Business, Facilities & Fiscal Management John LaNave explained at Thursday night’s school board meeting. The town board and school board both must approve letting the school district collect its own taxes. He did not express optimism that the town board would vote in favor of letting the district collect taxes because the surcharge will be used by Clarkstown to pay up to $2 million in expenses being shifted by Rockland County to the town.
LaNave said if the district got permission, he could probably find a way to collect taxes for $100,000 or less.
He noted New York State Education Law allows school districts to charge for use of gyms and outdoor facilities. He said a review of town use of facilities showed there were 66 different types of programs and activities, which translated in hundreds of events over the past year. LaNave said if the district chose to charge for the usage, it could bring in between $275,000 and $475,000. However, he said a fee imposed on the town would likely be passed directly to taxpayers.
Board President Joe Malgieri said he did not want to pass more costs onto the taxpayers.
The one percent imposed on school district tax bills covers the money being raised for Clarkstown’s schools and the New City and West Nyack library budgets. LaNave said without any real prior notification of the surcharge, it came as a surprise to district officials and residents who are now calling to complain about the processing fee, which increases their tax bills by three percent, not the two percent anticipated.
“We feel bad because it’s an unexpected bill for residents,” said LaNave. “There was no public discussion. What we’re worried about is next year when we go out and propose two percent. By adding this fee they have put us in a really, really tough spot.”
LaNave said senior citizens have already told him, the 2013-2014 school budget cannot increase by two percent next if the surcharge remains. It can only increase by one percent or they will vote against it.
Malgieri said the Rockland County School Boards Association is planning to study the issue.