Board reviews official voting results, discusses tax rebates

Voters approved the proposed budget for the Greater Amsterdam School District for the fourth straight year, according to official results cited by Superintendent Thomas Perillo at Wednesday’s regular meeting of the Board of Education.

The 65 million dollar budget for the 2015-16 school year was passed by a vote of 480 to 328.

Incumbent Gavin Murdoch and newcomer Jackie Mariciniak were elected to the Board of Education by 479 and 405 votes, respectively. Candidate Katherine Hans received 378 votes, and Lisa Choat received 171 votes. Murdoch and Marciniak will serve 3 year terms to begin on July 1.

The proposition to support the Fort Hunter Library by levying $10,000 in property taxes was defeated by a vote of 327 to 467.

The budget was passed by 59 percent. With only 837 voters participating, superintendent Perillo noted that it was one of the lowest turnouts in recent years. However, he said that the approval of the budget “means a lot about the community.”

Although the budget features a 2 percent tax levy increase, a $41 million decrease in whole market value in the City of Amsterdam will cause different changes in the tax rates for municipalities in the GASD.

The City of Amsterdam will experience a rate decrease of 2.71 percent to a tax rate of $27.37 per $1,000 of taxable assessed value. The towns of Amsterdam and Florida, on the other hand, will both experience an increase of 6.19 percent, to a rate of $212.10 in the Town of Amsterdam and a rate of $40.79 in the Town of Florida.

While many residents in the district will see their school taxes increase next school year, some may not feel the full effect of the increase due to the New York Property Tax Freeze credit.

According to the NYS Department of Taxation and Finance website, “The property tax freeze credit is a new tax relief program that reimburses qualifying New York State homeowners for increases in local property taxes on their primary residences.”

In order for residents to receive the credit, the school district must stay below the state tax levy cap of 3 percent and must submit a government efficiency plan with the State Department of Education showing that the district saved the equivalent of 1 percent of the tax levy for 3 years. In order for homeowners to be eligible, they must receive the School Tax Relief Exemption (STAR).

School business manager Kim Brumley expressed her confidence that the district would be approved for the credit, estimating that the district would have to show a savings of about $200,000 to qualify. She said, “We’re going to be able to do that easily this year. One of the things we did will probably take care of the next 2 years, and that was refinancing one of our bonds. We’ve seen a substantial savings in our interest rate.”

The efficiency plan must be submitted by June 1, and, if approved, residents who see their tax rate increase over the previous year will receive a rebate check equal to the amount of the increase.

Brumley explained, “If someone put an addition on their house which increased their value…which caused a tax increase…they would not get that back. But if the house stayed the same…nothing changed from bill to bill…any increase they see in ‘15-‘16, they will get back in a rebate check.”

Eligible homeowners do not have to take any action in order to receive the rebate; the Tax Department will automatically mail to eligible homeowners their checks. There is no limit on the amount that a homeowner may receive. The credit is available for 3 years including the 2015-16 school year.

Ashley Onyon

Ashley Onyon is a graduate of the journalism program at SUNY Albany. She has contributed articles to The Mohawk Valley Independent and the annual journal Upstream.