The South Colonie Board of Education Tuesday night approved a 1.54 percent tax levy decrease for the 2017-18 school year, notably lower than the 1.50 percent tax levy increase proposed in this year’s school budget approved by district voters in May.
The change was the direct result of a “favorable” operating year in 2016-17, enabling the district to apply about $2.1 million in additional fund balance to the budget, lowering the tax levy. As a result, South Colonie property owners in the Town of Colonie will see the tax rate drop 2.1 percent, and Niskayuna property owners living in the South Colonie district will see a 3.59 percent tax rate decrease in 2017-18. Guilderland property owners in the district, however, will experience a 12.26 percent increase in their school tax rate due to a significant change in the equalization rate.
The district had initially proposed a tax levy of $71,456,000 (a 1.50 percent increase) to help fund education. The actual tax levy will now be $69,316,336 or $2,139,664 less than proposed in the 2017-18 budget. The district state tax levy limitation was 1.82 percent for 2017-18.
The district’s new tax rates per $1,000 of assessed value are as follows: Town of Colonie ($26.57), Town of Guilderland ($23.39), and Town of Niskayuna ($17.68). The tax rate per $1,000 will decrease 2.1 percent for Colonie residents. Niskayuna residents will experience a decline of 3.59 percent in the tax rate. Due to a significant drop in the 2017 equalization rate for the Town of Guilderland, the tax rate for Guilderland residents will increase by 12.26 percent.
The equalization rate measures the relationship between the assessed value and the market value of properties within a town. When the equalization rate declines, it generally means that the overall market value of properties has increased in relation to the assessed value. When one or more towns has a major shift in equalization rates, it results in redistribution of the tax share among the towns within a school district.
The Town of Guilderland equalization rate dropped from 88 percent in 2016 to 75.58 percent for 2017. This sharp decline in the equalization rate results in the redistribution of the tax levy in South Colonie, with Town of Guilderland residents taking on a larger share of the total tax.
It is important to understand that New York State sets the equalization rates for each town, not the school district. School districts have no legal authority to modify state equalization rates, assessments, or the tax rate calculation. While South Colonie’s overall school tax levy for the 2017-18 year will actually decline by 1.54 percent, Guilderland residents will absorb a larger share of the total tax levy, making their tax rate increase larger than the other two towns.