A planned one-percent surtax by the Town of Clarkstown will collect $1.4 million from Clarkstown School District residents and business owners within the town's borders.
It will bring in several hundred thousand dollars more from Clarkstown property owners within the East Ramapo School District.
On top of those amounts, there will be approximately $355,000 collected from the Nanuet School District, and additional monies from the Nyack District.
But the doesn't quite jibe with the frugal outlook local schools have adopted, school officials told Patch.
"Rockland County school districts were very vigilant in , and this obviously works against the tide," said James Montesano, superintendent of Nyack Schools.
Montesano said he first heard the news Wednesday over the phone, from Clarkstown supervisor Alex Gromack.
"I recognize these are tough times for municipalities and schools; county organizations are going through revenue shortfalls," Montesano added. "[But] it's somewhat unfortunate. I'm sure it sends a mixed message to property owners."
He also noted that last year, Orangetown did something similar, although it was a one-eighth-of-a-percent surcharge.
Clarkstown’s new School Superintendent Dr. Thomas Morton said the surtax was mixed in with other information as he was given an hours long tour of Clarkstown about a month ago.
“I’ve not gotten any notification whatsoever,” Morton said.
Nanuet School Superintendent Dr. Mark McNeill said he got a phone call in early August from Town Supervisor Alex Gromack telling him the surcharge was going to be included in upcoming school tax bills.
East Ramapo Superintendent Joel Klein said he found out Thursday when he received an email from McNeill.
“The first I’ve seen (about it) was a response from another superintendent,” said Klein referring to the letter the Nanuet Board of Education sent to Supervisor Gromack and town board officials.
“I just learned about it today,” said Clarkstown School Assistant Superintendent for Business, Facilities & Fiscal Management John LaNave Thursday. “Mr. Gromack did confirm to me they were adding the one percent.”
The town is allowed by law to add a processing fee for collecting school taxes—however, it was never imposed. Now, residents will be receiving bills for higher amounts than they expected or had budgeted for.
“This will add a full percent increase to it (the school tax bill),” LaNave said.
In addition to the school board's approved homestead increase of 2.1 percent, property owners will have to pay one percent more.
“For the resident it will look like 3.1 percent roughly,” LaNave said. “That’s disappointing.”
The Clarkstown School District’s increase will cost the homeowner of an average property $160. The surcharge will cost the average homeowner $80 more.
LaNave said the town’s surcharge is not part of the two percent property tax restriction and will not affect school district revenues.
Gromack spoke about the surcharge Friday afternoon.
"Clarkstown was the only town of the five Towns in Rockland County that did not charge a processing fee," he said in an email. "Upon researching the issue, we realized New York State mandates we collect the one-percent fee unless the Town Board takes affirmative action to rescind it."
"With the Town facing over $3 million in costs being shifted from Rockland County Government to the town, the Town Board decided to do what New York State law mandated us to do," he added.
LaNave said although the town has had the authority to add a fee for collecting bills it never acted on it because of a reciprocal arrangement with the Clarkstown School District. The district has not charged the town to use school buildings for summer camp programs.
The town sends out the school tax bills from late August through early September and payment is due by late October. It is not known if an explanation of the one percent surcharge will be included with the tax forms.
Klein found the town’s handling of the added surtax disconcerting.
“You would think they would notify people,” he said. “Let the people know.”