Written by Matthew Ern Wednesday, 05 February 2014 00:00
The New Hyde Park-Garden City Park Board of Education tackled state aid and what it means for the 2014-15 budget at its work session on Monday, Jan. 27.
The district saw an increase of just $7,177 in state aid from last year, putting the projected total for the 2014-15 budget at $4,650,270. Superintendent Dr. Robert Katulak expressed his disappointment at an essentially flat aid number, but remains hopeful.
“I’m eternally optimistic that our legislator, with the influential calls and emails and letters from parents, will get at least a couple hundred thousand to bump up our state aid,” Katulak said.
Assistant Superintendent of Business Michael G. Frank explained that an additional type of state aid fell below the line in the budget and is not included in the original total. There is about $400,000 set aside for acquiring SMART technologies, such as tablets and touch screens for classrooms. He says the district could certainly make use of this and speculates that the allocation seems to be “dangled out there,” suggesting its intended use toward gap elimination restoration, even though it’s technically below the line.
“If that’s the case, the district could use the money how we want to use it, not how the governor says we should use it. And if we get that money, we’ll be okay,” Frank says.
Frank also presented data on a new tax exemption the district can choose to enact. It would offer veterans three tiers of potential exemption, based on whether or not they saw combat or suffered a disability. This already exists for county taxes but now school districts can approve it as well. The decision has been left up to each individual district.
The schools will receive no more or less money from taxes if it’s approved; the only people impacted would be the other taxpayers.
“It’s a community decision. It’s just ‘Who’s paying what piece?’” Frank explained.
There is leeway within each tier for how much of an exemption to grant, although there is a precedent set by a county standard that Frank expects most districts to stay in line with. According to census data from the county, there are 284 residents who qualify for the non-active combat exemption, 326 that saw combat, and 27 that suffered a disability. The size of the tax break increases as you go further down the list from non-combat.
There are also 336 other residents that could be eligible for the tax exemption if this new one is enacted. Because it’s not known how many would come forward and claim it, Frank says it’s to project a definitive number for how the tax break would impact the other taxpayers.
A worse-case scenario projection could mean elementary school taxes increasing by up to $36.79 per household if all eligible veterans take the exemption. The district already has exemptions in place for volunteer firemen, seniors, and low-income households, and there is no rule against qualifying for multiple, district officials say. Any decision reached would apply to the elementary school district, but taxpayers could still be impacted by exemptions enacted in neighboring high school districts as well.
The deadline to enact the tax break is March 15 and the school board plans to have a hearing for community input before then.