Blogs > City Editor's Blog

By Jeremy Schiffres, Daily and Sunday Freeman, Kingston, N.Y.

Friday, September 7, 2007

3 = 7.6

There’s a story in the Freeman today (Friday, Sept. 7) about the just-announced 2007-08 property tax rates in the Kingston school district. The tax rate for homeowners within the city of Kingston will be a hefty 7.6 higher than it was in 2006-07.

If I sound surprised, it’s because I am. I might not have been if I had known about the hike before being asked to vote on the district’s annual budget proposal this past May. But the district didn’t bother to tell me – or anyone else who lives in the city of Kingston, for that matter. The only thing the Board of Education announced at the time was that the district’s “property tax levy” -- the total amount of money that’s accumulated, districtwide, through property tax collections – would be about 3 percent higher in 2007-08 than it was in 2006-07.

Now I’m smart enough to know that a 3 percent increase in the property tax levy doesn’t necessarily mean my taxes will rise by only 3 percent. Because the Kingston school district is made up of one city and parts of nine surrounding towns, the tax impact always varies from community to community. Using a state formula known as the “equalization rate,” school districts like Kingston adjust taxes differently in each locale in an effort to distribute the burden equally. But it certainly was fair to assume my tax hike would be in the general vicinity of 3 percent – not more than twice that amount.

And I find it hard to believe that Kingston school board members and district officials didn’t have at least a rough idea before the May vote of what each community’s tax burden would be. I suspect they simply chose not to tell us because they realized that if residents of the city of Kingston – the largest and most economically challenged community in the district – knew ahead of time that they’d be facing a 7.6 percent tax hike, the budget would have gone down in flames. Indeed, it’s easier to sell a budget by revealing “a 3 percent increase in the property tax levy” than by disclosing “a 7.6 percent tax hike for people who own homes in the city of Kingston.”

Numerous school districts in the area – most notably some in Dutchess County – tell voters beforehand exactly what their tax rates will be in the coming year if the proposed budget is approved. Put simply, they give the voters all the information needed to make an informed decision before asking them to cast ballots on the next year’s spending plan. What a novel approach. Kingston should try it sometime.

All that aside, I’d like someone to tell me what we Kingston residents are getting for the additional 7.6 percent in taxes that we'll be paying. Our children aren't getting 7.6 percent more education than they got last school year. The school buildings in the district haven’t become 7.6 percent larger. There aren’t 7.6 percent more buses. The school libraries don’t have 7.6 percent more books. The classrooms don’t have 7.6 percent more computers. There aren’t 7.6 percent more extracurricular activities. And there certainly aren’t 7.6 percent more teachers.

It seems all we're getting is a 7.6 percent larger headache.



Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home