Taxpayers of Valley Stream School District 30, which includes Clear...

Taxpayers of Valley Stream School District 30, which includes Clear Stream Avenue School, face a proposed 13.7 percent tax increase. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Valley Stream School District 30’s proposed tax levy increase of 13.71 percent is the second highest on Long Island, but schools officials said it’s a “readjustment year” from the fallout over the Green Acres Mall and its tax breaks.

The district’s proposed budget itself increases 1.9 percent, from $34,823,823 in 2017-2018 to $35,484,725 in 2018-2019. The budget will be put to a vote on May 15.

Superintendent Nicholas Stirling said the district could not estimate how much individual taxpayers would pay under the proposed levy.

“We can’t even predict that any longer,” he said. “We’re not increasing significantly, we’re doing all that we can do for our kids.”

The levy’s 13.71 percent increase is still under the district’s limit of 14.01 percent, Stirling said. The district’s tax levy for 2017-2018 was down 15.17 percent from the year before.

Stirling and Christopher Dillon, the district’s assistant superintendent for business, said the levy’s increase stems from the district’s previous miscalculation of how much money it would get from payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreements, or PILOTs, for the Green Acres Mall and the adjacent shopping center, the Green Acres Commons.

District 30 underestimated its portion of the PILOTs by about $1.8 million and passed along the difference to taxpayers in their October 2016 school tax bills.

An audit by the state comptroller’s office found that District 30 taxpayers saw their school taxes, for the median household, increase by $887.75. The rise should only have been $573.59, the comptroller’s report stated, but the additional $314.16 was from District 30’s underbudgeting.

“We take ownership for it because of the underestimate,” Stirling said.

Changes to the tax system’s adjusted base proportions, increases to the tax levy and the PILOT agreements were to blame for the $573.59 hike, the report stated.

Last year, District 30’s tax levy was down 15.17 percent to return the more than $1.8 million to taxpayers; the average decrease was $382 and the levy was $19,556,827. The proposed 2018-2019 tax levy of $22,238,176 makes up 63 percent of the district’s $35,484,725 budget.

“This is not a typical situation,” Stirling said. “These tax levies don’t necessarily equate to school districts needing more money and raising more money and needing it from taxpayers.”

Before the Green Acres PILOTs, District 30 levied $26,591,233 for its 2013-2014, 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 budgets.

Even though the district now correctly estimates for Green Acres, the mall and commons — and any other properties that have PILOTs — are still off the tax rolls and affect the district’s adjusted base proportions, Stirling and Dillon said. District 30 — as well as other school districts — also has to contend with tax grievance cases. Green Acres has a pending grievance case.

With John Hildebrand

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