As we stated in last year’s budget newsletter and have continued to emphasize with our residents, any excess Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) money that the District receives beyond what was estimated for the 2016-17 school year will be used to reduce the tax levy for 2017/18. While we have not been given the funds to date, we have been advised by the Industrial Development Agency (IDA) that the District will be receiving approximately $1.86 million in additional funds from the Green Acres Mall PILOT. This reported amount will be used to lower the tax levy for 2017/18.

The proposed budget represents the fifth consecutive year of presenting spending plans to the community that have carried a tax levy increase at or below zero percent. We are proud that, while lowering the tax levy, the District has also been able to preserve all programs and services for students, continue to implement the District’s five-year Strategic Plan, and make certain enhancements to our curriculum.

Due to the timing of the budget season, the voters have the right to be informed of the proposed budget for the 2017/2018 school year before the Board approves the budget on April 20, 2017 and before the budget vote on May 16, 2017. The 2017/2018 budget being presented reflects that the tax levy needed to support the proposed budget will see a one-time reduction of approximately -15.17%. This reduction is part of the fulfillment of our promise that, if the District receives additional PILOT revenue from the Green Acres Mall, it will be returned to the taxpayers.

While we acknowledge Legislator Gaylor for his support of the residents of Valley Stream, legislation that is drafted with the goal of monetary refund checks to taxpayers instead of reducing the 2017/2018 tax levy will not solve the underlying issues with Industrial Development Agencies or meet the New York State budget timeline. The Board of Education has previously identified legislative priority issues to address the issues created by the PILOT granted to the Green Acres Mall. These legislative priorities include reforms that would require Industrial Development Agencies to provide notice of proposed tax exemptions to each affected school district. In addition, Industrial Development Agencies should be required to respond to requests for information from school districts and taxpayers regarding proposed tax exemptions. Taxpayers and school districts should also be provided with a meaningful opportunity to participate in the process by which PILOTs are granted.

Above all, school districts need to be informed of the amount of PILOT revenue they can anticipate receiving each year in order to apply this revenue to reduce the tax levy in advance. The District continues to request this information regarding the Green Acres Mall PILOT. However, to date, the dollar amount the District will receive for the 2017/2018 school year remains unknown. This information should be provided to the District well in advance of budgeting season so the impact of these tax breaks can be communicated to the residents. The District urges elected officials at both the state and local levels to pursue these legislative priorities, which would require greater transparency from the Industrial Development Agencies and require full disclosure of the impact of PILOT agreements on the public.