Bridgehampton School. The district plans to seek a tax-cap override.

Bridgehampton School. The district plans to seek a tax-cap override. Credit: James Carbone

Long Island school districts project an average 1.8% rise in property taxes next year — the lowest increase in five years and one reflecting an economic slowdown triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Four districts — Bridgehampton, Greenport, Three Village and Wantagh — have announced tentative plans to seek tax-cap overrides for the 2021-22 school year. Local officials cited various reasons for considering higher taxation, including a desire to maintain popular student programs and avoid teacher layoffs.

Preliminary tax plans for more than 120 districts in Nassau and Suffolk counties are spelled out in a recent report issued by the state comptroller's office in Albany. The annual report serves as a sort of early alert system for local taxpayers and others who vote in school elections.

Under state law, at least 60% of voters must approve any proposed override of tax-cap restrictions within individual districts. Polling this year is scheduled for May 18.

New York State sets a baseline restriction on annual increases in school property taxes of 2% or the inflation rate, whichever is lower. This year's baseline is 1.23% due to a sluggish economy and low inflation.

"Given the economic challenges that people face these days, I think districts are cognizant of that and are budgeting conservatively," said Ron Masera, superintendent of Center Moriches schools and president of the Suffolk County School Superintendents Association.

Masera added that, despite budget constraints, education leaders look forward to the return of more students to schools next year as pandemic infection rates decline.

"School leaders are maintaining a positive, optimistic attitude, and are looking forward to building budgets that will provide a full return to classes next fall," he said.

This year's report by the comptroller's office finds that total property-tax collections are projected to rise by an average 1.7% in Nassau and 1.9% in Suffolk.

Tax hikes within individual districts can run either higher or lower than the state baseline, depending on local circumstances. On Long Island, school taxes account for about two-thirds of property owners’ total bills.

Analysts cautioned that tax numbers are preliminary and subject to change, as districts obtain more details on how much financial support they will receive from federal and state governments. Much of that information is expected to become available around April 1, when Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and state legislators are due to approve a state budget.

The Wantagh district also is planning a tax-cap override.

The Wantagh district also is planning a tax-cap override. Credit: Raychel Brightman

In Wantagh, administrators would have to reduce their tax levy slightly next year under state rules, due to a formula change involving capital costs. Levies are the total dollar amounts raised through property taxation.

As an alternative, administrators raised the possibility of an override that would boost taxes 4.88%, while adding that a final decision won't be made until April.

Those officials added that they continue offering "terrific opportunities" for students but feared they might have to cut 19 staff positions and raise elementary school class sizes, even if a tax hike is approved. Wantagh has cited pressures exerted by pay raises and other rising costs and was one of 31 districts statewide identified recently by the comptroller's office as facing fiscal "stress."

Three Village has proposed a 1.85% tax hike for next year, which is higher than the 1.37% allowed by its cap. The district cited COVID-19-related expenses, including hiring of extra teachers to lower class sizes, as a major cost factor.

Jeff Carlson, the district's deputy superintendent, described such spending as "the cost to have our students, pre-K through grade 12, in school five days a week the entire school year." He said such funding needs to be maintained next year and would cost the average taxpayer only $58 more than if Three Village kept within its cap.

Overriding state caps has proved easier in the East End, where taxes are relatively low, than in school systems farther west. Voters in both Bridgehampton and Greenport have approved cap-piercing budgets twice in recent years, for example.

In May, they could try again.

Bridgehampton is eyeing a 9.34% tax boost, far beyond the 2.7% limit set by state rules. Jennifer Coggin, the district's business administrator, said a big factor in local budget planning was an increase in families with special-education needs who recently decided to move to the bucolic area from New York City.

"It changes weekly sometimes," Coggin said of the list of new arrivals.

Greenport, meanwhile, is considering a 4.85% levy increase, rather than sticking within its 1.56% cap. But local administrators said they would consider money-saving alternatives, such as retirement incentives for senior employees, before committing to an override attempt.

SCHOOL TAXES    
DistrictPY Tax LevyProposed Levy% changeOverride
Nassau    
Baldwin 98,286,817 99,994,497 1.74NO
Bellmore 26,271,667 26,583,621 1.19NO
Bellmore-Merrick 122,463,350 124,237,285 1.45NO
Bethpage 67,436,071 68,583,618 1.70NO
Carle Place 43,948,766 44,578,542 1.43NO
East Meadow 143,099,792 145,788,063 1.88NO
East Rockaway 31,366,918 32,182,309 2.60NO
East Williston 56,725,689 57,675,362 1.67NO
Elmont 55,681,591 55,651,008 -0.05NO
Farmingdale 129,693,583 131,652,233 1.51NO
Floral Park-Bellerose 24,677,559 25,658,872 3.98NO
Franklin Square 29,003,151 29,410,022 1.40NO
Freeport 89,373,917 91,730,913 2.64NO
Garden City 104,547,393 105,425,033 0.84NO
Glen Cove 70,894,685 72,070,116 1.66NO
Great Neck 212,857,469 217,646,762 2.25NO
Hempstead 75,934,370 75,934,370 0.00NO
Herricks 100,937,081 102,817,819 1.86NO
Hewlett-Woodmere 106,273,125 108,341,484 1.95NO
Hicksville 105,981,278 108,033,057 1.94NO
Island Park 32,939,152 33,344,198 1.23NO
Island Trees 45,560,279 46,757,125 2.63NO
Jericho 108,811,962 110,933,795 1.95NO
Lawrence 85,954,300 85,954,300 0.00NO
Levittown 146,293,986 149,140,845 1.95NO
Locust Valley 82,686,760 83,790,900 1.34NO
Long Beach 105,880,305 106,763,618 0.83NO
Lynbrook 71,224,469 72,566,899 1.88NO
Malverne 45,232,815 45,927,673 1.54NO
Manhasset 90,697,426 92,178,226 1.63NO
Massapequa 167,229,312 169,289,819 1.23NO
Merrick 42,024,690 42,856,265 1.98NO
Mineola 84,660,000 84,711,420 0.06NO
New Hyde Park-Garden City Park 32,599,952 32,971,547 1.14NO
North Bellmore 40,327,037 40,948,156 1.54NO
North Merrick 23,996,420 24,370,793 1.56NO
North Shore 91,031,704 92,337,257 1.43NO
Oceanside 130,298,962 132,788,389 1.91NO
Oyster Bay-East Norwich 53,666,972 54,407,561 1.38NO
Plainedge 67,680,775 68,710,143 1.52NO
Plainview-Old Bethpage 128,371,510 132,163,000 2.95NO
Port Washington 143,802,224 146,775,940 2.07NO
Rockville Centre 99,750,000 99,750,000 0.00NO
Roosevelt 23,448,002 23,874,278 1.82NO
Roslyn 96,781,273 99,156,166 2.45NO
Seaford 55,047,849 55,871,869 1.50NO
Sewanhaka 152,215,903 153,912,958 1.11NO
Syosset 204,236,165 208,963,950 2.31NO
Uniondale 125,852,550 128,357,016 1.99NO
Valley Stream 13 37,808,506 38,470,155 1.75NO
Valley Stream 24 21,754,290 21,999,845 1.13NO
Valley Stream 30 22,701,749 22,984,792 1.25NO
Valley Stream Central 86,864,653 87,934,742 1.23NO
Wantagh 61,123,989 65,950,021 7.90YES
West Hempstead 46,817,635 47,807,538 2.11NO
Westbury 82,628,431 85,074,233 2.96NO
Suffolk    
Amagansett 10,126,580 10,459,242 3.29NO
Amityville 60,344,758 61,200,000 1.42NO
Babylon 43,909,256 44,472,506 1.28NO
Bay Shore 113,329,894 115,360,073 1.79NO
Bayport-Blue Point 53,944,254 55,530,215 2.94NO
Brentwood 111,568,807 115,543,339 3.56NO
Bridgehampton 16,423,632 18,107,265 10.25YES
Center Moriches 24,303,942 24,466,009 0.67NO
Central Islip 94,132,834 97,726,989 3.82NO
Cold Spring Harbor 65,819,125 66,481,624 1.01NO
Commack 145,379,230 148,272,276 1.99NO
Comsewogue 57,279,755 59,717,689 4.26NO
Connetquot 129,665,481 132,258,791 2.00NO
Copiague 65,244,654 66,969,331 2.64NO
Deer Park 74,525,878 75,453,070 1.24NO
East Hampton 53,153,720 54,679,949 2.87NO
East Islip 71,910,497 72,991,599 1.50NO
East Moriches 21,437,511 21,705,744 1.25NO
East Quogue 23,767,616 24,198,923 1.81NO
Eastport-South Manor 56,904,991 58,347,350 2.53NO
Elwood 48,475,302 49,656,326 2.44NO
Fire Island 5,082,291 5,082,291 0.00NO
Fishers Island 3,263,513 3,347,907 2.59NO
Greenport 15,774,000 16,419,500 4.09YES
Half Hollow Hills 213,700,033 217,026,755 1.56NO
Hampton Bays 47,124,319 47,810,381 1.46NO
Harborfields 68,465,006 69,053,066 0.86NO
Hauppauge 88,866,467 90,057,187 1.34NO
Huntington 112,350,000 114,433,838 1.85NO
Islip 61,859,807 60,416,010 -2.33YES
Kings Park 73,709,163 75,435,545 2.34NO
Lindenhurst 104,833,668 105,864,508 0.98NO
Longwood 149,714,213 154,136,252 2.95NO
Mattituck-Cutchogue 37,494,923 38,039,417 1.45NO
Middle Country 147,700,000 149,005,977 0.88NO
Miller Place 47,616,059 48,769,568 2.42NO
Montauk 16,595,394 17,354,600 4.57NO
Mount Sinai 41,396,602 42,198,635 1.94NO
New Suffolk 913,146 929,857 1.83NO
North Babylon 67,854,328 69,007,560 1.70NO
Northport-East Northport 149,717,642 152,225,933 1.68NO
Oysterponds 5,185,402 5,129,691 -1.07NO
Patchogue-Medford 116,159,328 119,413,678 2.80NO
Port Jefferson 37,357,908 37,886,092 1.41NO
Quogue 7,847,196 8,007,904 2.05NO
Remsenburg-Speonk 13,077,698 13,197,240 0.91NO
Riverhead 104,541,394 106,082,659 1.47NO
Rocky Point 52,483,059 53,150,782 1.27NO
Sachem 195,650,679 199,508,705 1.97NO
Sag Harbor 39,737,613 40,333,677 1.50NO
Sagaponack 1,276,866 1,298,760 1.71NO
Sayville 61,106,560 61,477,262 0.61NO
Shelter Island 10,777,960 11,016,571 2.21NO
Shoreham-Wading River 55,391,167 56,148,036 1.37NO
Smithtown 201,458,364 205,993,882 2.25NO
South Country 63,555,904 64,349,842 1.25NO
South Huntington 120,641,023 123,042,088 1.99NO
Southampton 59,440,843 60,433,686 1.67NO
Southold 27,600,000 28,106,000 1.83NO
Springs 27,033,579 28,086,773 3.90NO
Three Village 162,004,770 165,001,858 1.85YES
Tuckahoe 18,821,496 19,207,768 2.05NO
Wainscott 3,003,331 3,065,860 2.08NO
West Babylon 77,407,537 78,069,039 0.85NO
West Islip 87,223,610 88,619,244 1.60NO
Westhampton Beach 31,791,179 32,160,000 1.16NO
William Floyd 102,888,275 105,882,753 2.91NO
Wyandanch 22,613,397 22,923,785 1.37NO

Latest videos