Clarkstown’s proposed one percent to collect school taxes caught school district officials by surprise.
Clarkstown’s new School Superintendent Dr. Thomas Morton said the surtax was mixed in with other information as he was given an hours long tour of Clarkstown about a month ago. Nanuet School Superintendent Dr. Mark McNeill said he got a phone call in early August from Town Supervisor Alex Gromack telling him the surcharge was going to be included in upcoming school tax bills. East Ramapo Superintendent Joel Klein said he found out today when he received an email from McNeill.
The other school district that falls within Clarkstown’s borders is Nyack.
“I’ve not gotten any notification whatsoever,” said Morton.
“The first I’ve seen (about it) was a response from another superintendent,” said Klein referring to the letter the Nanuet Board of Education sent to Supervisor Gromack and town board officials.
“I just learned about it today,” said Clarkstown School Assistant Superintendent for Business, Facilities & Fiscal Management John LaNave said. “Mr. Gromack did confirm to me they were adding the one percent.”
The town is allowed by law to add a processing fee for collecting school taxes. However it was never imposed. Now, residents will be receiving bills for higher amounts than they expected or had budgeted for.
“This will add a full percent increase to it (the school tax bill),” said LaNave.
In addition to the school board approved homestead increase of 2.1 percent, property owners will have to pay one percent more.
“For the resident it will look like 3.1 percent roughly,” said LaNave. “That’s disappointing.”
The Clarkstown School District’s increase will cost the homeowner of an average property $160. The surcharge will cost the average homeowner $80 more.
LaNave said the town’s surcharge is not part of the two percent property tax restriction and will not affect school district revenues.
The one percent surtax will collect $1.4 million from Clarkstown School District residents and business owners within the town's borders. It will bring in several hundred thousand dollars more from Clarkstown property owners within the East Ramapo School District. On top of those amounts, there will be approximately $355,000 collected from the Nanuet school district and additional monies from the Nyack district.
Calls to town officials asking for additional information and background on their decision and how the added revenue will be used have not been returned. According to Gromack’s office, there will not be a response until Town Attorney Amy Mele is available next week.
LaNave said although the town has had the authority to add a fee for collecting bills it never acted on it because of a reciprocal arrangement with the Clarkstown School District. The district has not charged the town to use school buildings for summer camp programs.
The town sends out the school tax bills from late August through early September and payment is due by late October. It is not known if an explanation of the one percent surcharge will be included with the tax forms.
Klein found the town’s handling of the added surtax disconcerting.
“You would think they would notify people,” he said. “Let the people know.”