As you may know, the majority of taxes we pay here in Pawling are school taxes
and if we are going to make a real difference we need to understand why they are
so high. Pawling is considered a “low needs” district by the state of NY, therefore
we get only a small amount of financial help from NY state to run our schools.
Many neighboring towns get 50% or more from NY State while Pawling only gets 17.2%
That means that as our cost of education rises or unfunded state mandates are added, the property taxpayers of Pawling must absorb over 80% of that expense and those increases.
The state determines the amount of State Aid (officially called Foundation Aid) by evaluating several factors. The first is the assessed value of our land. That assessed value has been declining over the past ten years and appears to be continuing to do so. The second piece the state considers is the average income in Pawling. This number also seems to be stagnating, even below the rate of local inflation. Other factors are also considered by the state like the number of children enrolled in our public schools and the percentage of them who qualify for the subsidized lunch program. Since 2008 the Pawling Central School District has experienced continually declining enrollment. From October 2007 to October 2015 we have declined by 252 students or about 17.2% (enrollment in other small towns in Dutchess County are down as well). Also, the number of children in Pawling schools who qualify for the free/reduced price lunch program has grown from 8% just 5 years ago to a much more significant 25% today.
It seems that so many of these factors that determine how much NY State Aid we get are changing - though not for the better. Ironically, these factors might earn us more state aid.
With this information in mind we set up a number of meetings with the School Administration and the President of our School Board to discuss the issue. With advice from the community we also made a determination that a meeting with our representative in the state house was also urgent. We worked together as volunteers of PawlingTaxCut.org with the Mayor of Pawling and with the Pawling Central School District to arrange a meeting with our State Senator, Terrence Murphy on Thursday, January 14th, 2016 at his office in Shrub Oak, NY.
Our 40-minute meeting was attended by The Superintendent of Pawling’s Schools, The Assistant Superintendent of Finance for PCSD, The Mayor of Pawling & volunteers of PawlingTaxCut.org. It was an honest and frank exchange about the situation that Pawling faces and some factors that affect funding for education all across the Hudson Valley. Senator Murphy was receptive to our points and agreed to continue this conversation and have additional meetings on this subject in the coming weeks.
The information that NY State uses for the school’s Foundation Aid formula has a lag time of three years, which means as our economy and demographics in Pawling change it will take the State three years to acknowledge that and make the adjustments to our funding for schools. We emphasized the negative changes that are happening in our economy right now to Senator Murphy.
The lack of aid from NY State for our schools is the single most significant reason our school taxes are higher in Pawling. There are certainly things that can, must and will be done to run a better, smarter and more efficient school system with the continued cooperation of our new school board and administration. . . this combined with a higher amount of state aid really would make a difference in the tax burden on your home.