more successful when a district’s maxi-mum tax levy cap was at or below 2 per-cent.Twenty-one districts that wererequired by law to limit their tax levyincreases to 2 percent or less (and, insome cases, less than 0 percent), duemostly to PILOT agreements,
proposedbudgets with tax levy increases thatexceeded their caps, and all but four of them were approved. In fact, the 17 suc-cessful districts had maximum allowabletax levy increase limits that averaged neg-ative 0.44 percent. In overriding theircaps, these 17 districts passed budgetswith an average tax levy increase of 2.75percent. This suggests that districts maybe more likely to obtain voter supermajor-ity approval when their tax levy cap isviewed as overly restrictive.The Ballston Spa school district inSaratoga County provides a good illustra-tion. Ballston Spa had a tax levy cap of negative 2.9 percent, meaning the districtactually had to cut its tax levy by that per-centage to stay within its cap. The reason:PILOT payments.Under existing PILOT agreementsBallston Spa haswith several localbusinesses, the dis-trict will receive anadditional $2.1 mil-lion for 2012-13.
Bylaw, these paymentsmust be subtractedfrom the district’stax cap calculation,creating a situationwhereby it had anegative tax levycap.Ballston Spa’sproposed budget called for a tax cut of 0.4percent to avoid layoffs and program cutsas enrollment rises.
So, while BallstonSpa actually reduced its tax levy, the dis-trict still required supermajority voterapproval to pass its budget because thelevy change was greater than its negative2.9 percent cap amount. Nearly 70 percentof voters approved the plan. Ballston Spawill see reduced payments under itsPILOT agreements in coming years. Thiscould lead to its tax cap calculation even-tually rising to more than 2 percent.Other unusual circumstances arose inthe first year of the tax cap that showedthere are still a number of bugs to beworked out. The New Paltz (UlsterCounty) school district budget was defeat-ed because it did not receive the 60 per-cent voter approval it needed to overridethe cap – falling just short with 59.4 per-cent. School district trustees said the over-ride provision is unfair because ‘no’ voteshave greater weight than ‘yes’ votes, mak-ing it undemocratic and possibly unconsti-tutional. The Board of Education said itwill send a letterto a state educa-tional reform com-mission suggestingthat a simplemajority of votersbe required tooverride a statecap on propertytax increasesinstead of the 60percent currentlymandated.
Comparison of total votes cast –simple majority districts
T o t a l v o t e s c a s t
Comparison of total votes cast –supermajority districts
T o t a l v o t e s c a s t
The total number of votes cast in the 623 districts that needed a simple majority for budgetpassage decreased by 11.6 percent in 2012 compared with 2011.
The total number of votes cast in the 48 districts that needed a supermajority for budgetpassage increased by 26.5 percent in 2012 compared with 2011.
A PILOT, or payment in lieu of taxes, is compensation to a local government (in this case, a school district) for some or all of the tax revenue it loses from a pieceof property that is exempt from taxes, such as federally-owned land or a commercial enterprise that was given a tax break to locate in a particular geographic area.The property tax cap calculation for each district is adjusted by any PILOT payments, which may reduce the property tax cap to less than 2 percent.