School districts around the state should take note of four key lessons from the first year of the property tax cap, according to a new research brief by the New York State School Boards Association.
"As school districts begin community budget forums and planning sessions, now is an opportune time to reflect back and ask, 'What can we learn from our first go-round with the cap?'" said Timothy G. Kremer, association executive director.
The report, entitled "Lessons from Year 1 of the Tax Levy Cap" identifies four takeaways from the first year of the cap. They are:
Less is more. Voters were one and a half times more likely to approve budgets with tax levy increases at or below the tax cap. Specifically, 99 percent of budgets at or below the cap were approved, compared to 60 percent passage rate of budgets exceeding the cap and requiring approval by a supermajority of voters.
Not all overrides are created equal. Districts that attempted to override their tax levy cap were more likely to succeed if they could show that their cap was caused by unusual circumstances and was overly restrictive.
Opposites attract. In general, voter turnout increased in districts seeking tax cap overrides and decreased in districts requiring only simple majorities. The tax cap did not result in an increase in overall voter turnout statewide - in fact, overall voter turnout decreased by 8.4 percent compared with 2011.
Higher means lower. There appears to be an inverse relationship between voter turnout and budget passage: the greater the turnout, the less likely the budget was to pass.
"Based on year one of the cap, the old adage that people vote with their pocketbook rings true," Kremer said. "Whether quality public schools and the tax cap can peacefully coexist on a long-term basis remains to be seen."
The research brief can be found at www.nyssba.org.