Cary Community School District 26 school board will consider asking for 3% more in property taxes this year than it did last year, though the district's finance director said it's unlikely the district will see all of the increase.
The plan is to present a levy totalling $23.3 million to be considered by the board later this fall, MeriAnn Besonen, the district's director of finance and operations, told board members Monday evening.
A tax levy hearing and vote is scheduled for Nov. 16.
Besonen said the district likely see an increase closer to 2.6%, or just under $600,000, because of a state tax cap that limits how much school districts and other local governments can raise their property tax levies by.
Several board members asked to be given other options at the next board meeting besides raising the tax levy.
Besonen said if the district were to keep the tax levy extension flat over the next 10 years, the district would lose an estimated $6.5 million. Taking a zero would affect the district “forever," she said.
That's because of how the state tax cap works: School districts and certain other local taxing bodies are limited in how much they can increase their levies, or the total amount they're requesting to collect in property taxes, to the rate of inflation plus new growth like a new subdivision or an addition on a home. If the district doesn't ask for that increase in its levy, it cannot request future inflationary increase on money it didn't ask for.
“I know the district has in the past done a lot of abatement,” Besonen said. “And that's a better avenue to go than trying to do a zero levy.”
Cary resident Scott Coffey, during public comment, said he would frame what the district is calling a $6.5 million loss with a flat levy as a $6.5 million tax increase.
“I'd highly recommend the board go back and scrub the numbers and look at alternatives to help the taxpayers, especially as this tax levy will be collected next summer,” he said. “And who knows what the housing market is going to look [like] at that point in time?”
Though the district has some financial positives, including that the the district has maintained a balanced budget, Besonen said it also has some concerns.
She said she has heard concerns about more delinquent property taxes and the district will also need to continue monitoring state funding coming in.
“We've always had to do that, but with COVID-19, there's even more stretches on the state budget,” Besonen said.
Besonen also mentioned the 3% salary increase for employees the board approved for the 2020-21 school year, noting that the pay increase is higher than the 2.6% projected for the levy.
The financial effects from COVID-19 could also have an impact on the district, Besonen said.
To date, District 26 has spent a total of $64,366 on items like masks and face shields, hand sanitizer, wipes, sneeze guards and no-contact thermometers, outside of any grants, she said.
Next year, Besonen said, she expects the district to spend another $4,175 per month on expenses tied to the COVID-19 pandemic.