LINDENHURST, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Polls were open in school districts across New York on Tuesday. On Long Island, residents were voting on proposed budgets in the billions of dollars, along with hundreds of contested board races.
So what will it mean for your taxes?
The message from schools is simple — the budget vote is crucial to avoid teacher layoffs, boost extracurriculars, provide for mental health, and keeping schools safe.
The stakes are high, but low turnout was expected. Fewer than nine percent of registered voters island-wide headed to the polls, contrasted with the 65 percent which turned out for the 2016 presidential election.
It’s surprising considering budgets and board decisions have a significant impact on taxpayers’ bottom line. School taxes account for more than 60 percent of Long Island homeowners’ assessment bills which are among the nation’s highest.
This year, the state spending cap limit is 4.22 percent.
“We decided 2.7 percent was a much more comfortable number,” Elwood Schools Superintendent Kenneth Bossert said. “It is well below the cap, we feel we can fund an excellent instructional programs for our students and it also enabled us to address some security enhancements.”
Security prompted one Lindenhurst teen to run for her school board seat. Gabrielle Anzalone was disciplined along with other students for demonstrating during the student national walkout day in March.
She thinks student voices should be better represented.
“As a board trustee I 100 percent understand the responsibility I have not only to the students but for the taxpayers in the community,” Anzalone said.
About half of Long Islanders pay $10,000 or more in property taxes and may face a fiscal reckoning next April when the new federal tax law takes full effect, limiting deductions.
“When you’re retired you paid your debt, why should you continue to pay school taxes? You have no kids in school,” Lindenhurst retiree Mary Smith said.
Any district piercing the tax cap must have 60 percent approval.