(Editor's Note: This letter was originally sent to the Garden City Board of Education and is being printed below at the author's request.)
On May 17, 2005, we voted on the Garden City Public Schools 2005/06 budget. According to the 16-page proposed budget, mailed to all current residents, the "percentage increase expenditure budget" and "percentage increase tax levy" were 6.51 percent and 5.81 percent respectively. When we received the statement of school taxes for the 2005/06 levy, we determined that our school taxes for the current year had increased by 11.37 percent.
In May 2004, we voted on the 2004/05 school budget based on a 6.95 percent increase in the expenditure budget and a 6.79 percent increase in the tax levy. Our records indicate that while our full market value and total assessment did not change, our school taxes increased by 12.72 percent. Relative to the 2003/04 budget, the total school taxes levied have increased by $7.21 million, or 11.76 percent, while our school taxes have increased by $1,066 or 25.53 percent.
The 2004/05 budget fact sheet included several "factors in why the percent increase in taxes a real property owner may be paying differs from the tax levy to tax levy increase of 6.79 percent." The 2005/06 budget fact sheet indicated that the $932 million increase in Class I value, together with shifting of value from Classes II, III and IV into Class I, is due to the real property reassessment conducted two years ago and will result in an average taxpayer in Class I and Class II paying a higher percentage increase in taxes than the 5.81 percent tax levy to tax levy increase. Neither of these statements gave us any clue that our actual increases in school taxes, for both years, would be approximately double the percentage increases in the proposed budgets that were submitted to, and approved by, the residents of Garden City.
The proposed average tax rate per $100 of assessed valuation by class is included in the budget fact sheets. For the 2005/06 tax year, the percentage increase in the tax rates for Class I and Class II were 76.2 percent and 3.8 percent respectively. In other words, the percentage change in the tax rate for residential homes, two- and three-family homes and low-rise condominiums was 20 times the percentage change in the tax rate for apartments, cooperatives and high-rise condominiums. For comparison, the tax rate for Class III increased by 10.2 percent and the tax rate for Class IV decreased by 2.2 percent. In the 40 years we have lived in Garden City we cannot recall seeing an explanation on how the average tax rates are determined and what the word "average" means.
Last week, Superintendent Dr. Robert Feirsen proposed a 2006/07 budget of $86,288,805, which is $5,277,737 or 6.51 percent higher than the 2005/06 school budget. Last year, the board adopted a budget of $81,011,068, which was an increase of $4,949,456 over the previous year. This increase was also 6.51 percent and the tax levy increase was 4.60 percent. Since the percent increases in the proposed 2006/07 school budget are identical to the actual increases in the 2005/06 budget, we expect our school taxes to be at least 11.37 percent higher than last year.
During the years covered in this letter we have attended the proposed budget presentations conducted by Dr. Leitman and Mr. J. Powell and we have read the 16-page proposed budgets, budget fact sheets and district budget notices. We thought we were well informed and voted intelligently. In retrospect, we now know that we were not adequately informed about our actual estimated increase in the school taxes for our property. Unless the Garden City School District provides the additional information we have requested, which enables all residents to determine their actual proposed school tax increase, we will reject the 2006/07 proposed school budget May 16, 2006.
Raymond and Mary Finnerty