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School Tax Rate Set

Lansing School Business Administrator Kate Heath presented the final numbers to the Board Of Education Tuesday that are needed to send school tax bills to taxpayers.  Heath said that the District will pay slightly less than projected before the May budget vote, and told board members the tax rate will be 0.11% higher than last year.  She said that the rate was mitigated by a higher than projected tax assessment roll value, but more dollars will have to be appropriated from the fund balance than expected to keep the levy below the state's tax cap calculation.

"We were anticipating a tax rate of $20.79," she said. "It is a little bit lower -- it is a 0.11% increase over last year's rate, and we are under the cap by $1,200."

The so-called tax cap, a formula based on the Consumer Price Index, is determined by a complicated formula.  School district voters may override the cap by a super-majority in the May budget vote, but Lansing has kept below the cap, in part because staying below the tax cap makes district taxpayers eligible to receive a check from Albany to mitigate the rise in taxes.

"When I report the tax cap in March, it is a projected tax cap for the upcoming school year," said heath.  "When we're making those assumptions in March we don't have all the final information.  We don't have our final tax roll numbers, and our final amounts are based on the final tax roll."

Heath said that the cap might have been higher this year, but the State Comptroller's office told her to use last year's figures.

"The State Comptroller looked at our 2017-18 amounts, because when I filed they automatically put in the information for our PILOTs from the previous year," she said.  "If something is materially changed you can update it, so I did that, because ours changed and it was to our benefit.  They said the recommendation is to revert back to what was filed.  That had an impact on what our cap would be."

Heath told the Comptroller's office she would prefer to use more accurate information, but they replied that they wanted to use what was on file 'for consistency'.  That meant the tax cap was lower than she had hoped, meaning that more fund balance -- an additional $25,000, bringing the total appropriation up to $275,000 --  would have to be appropriated to make the budget, yet stay below the cap.  She updated the information with the Comptroller's office Monday so it will be on file when she calculates the tax cap next year.

Tax Cap FormulaThe calculation for each school district's tax levy cap amount is a complicated formula. That number can be exceeded if a super-majority of voters approve paying more.

"I take the budgeted amount, take away all the 'guestimated' aid, and the final amount is what we need from the levy and our PILOTs.  I take our taxable assessed values, added to our PILOT values to get a total value.  I divide the amount we need by the total value to get our tax rate.  Our rate this year will be $20.74 and change per thousand dollars of assessed value.  I take that rate and apply it back to those values."

The final tax rate is nine cents less than was initially projected.  The district's final assessment roll came in at $917 million, higher than the $910 million that was projected.  Heath projected a levy of $18,836,930 and PILOT income of $1,027,002.  But PILOTs decreased in value from $49.4 million to $36.7 million, to produce $762,441 in income, raising the levy for property taxpayers to $19,041,492.

School tax collection begins September 1.

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