Warwick School Tax Benefits Greatly Overstated 

Actual School Tax Barely Changes if Greenwood Lake Leaves George F. Baker for Warwick 


This spring, the Greenwood Lake Board of Education will decide where their students will attend high school in 2013 and beyond. George F. Baker High School in Tuxedo has proudly hosted Greenwood Lake students since 1981, and today roughly 8 out of 10 Baker students live in Greenwood Lake.

The tuition cap figure, commonly cited in the Times-Herald Record and other sources, is the per-child rate determined for each student to attend one high school compared to another. The differences between school districts are often framed as a reason for making a switch: to save taxpayer money. While relevant to the discussion, these figures are extremely misleading at best. Simply switching school districts will not likely result in a significant tax break to the property owner.

What matters to Greenwood Lake property owners is what they actually pay each year in school taxes – not an arbitrary per-child rate – because these costs are spread across the entire tax base. If you have three children in high school and are considering the switch to Warwick, you will not be paying $24,000 per year ($8,000 per child) instead of whatever your school tax is now. Fair or unfair, that’s just not the way that property tax (including school tax) is collected in New York.

To get an idea of what the difference in school property taxes will be, we must look at comparable properties. A property in Greenwood Lake that is identical in lot size, house size, amenities, and assessment will pay a very similar property tax amount per year to a sister property Warwick. Because in New York State aid is determined by the receiving district (Tuxedo or Warwick) and not the sending district (Greenwood Lake), we can make a more accurate comparison using this method.

Using public tax records, we created a sample of four Greenwood Lake properties and four Warwick properties. The average taxable assessed value, which is the true figure upon which taxes are calculated, was matched to average $29,375 for Greenwood Lake and $29,375 for Warwick, which correspond to market values of approximately $210,000. The actual average school tax paid in 2011 on this sample for Greenwood Lake was $3,523.35, and the average actual school tax paid for Warwick was $3,283.96, making the comparable difference $239.39, or 6.8%.

This is a far cry from the thousands of dollars per year of tax savings that have been promised. Obviously, this small figure is what matters to taxpayers in the end – what they will actually pay in property tax. For full details on the method used, visit tuxedochamber.org/greenwood-lake.

Personally, I would love to reduce my property taxes by a small amount - but at what cost? I don’t think a marginal decrease would be worth losing jobs, hurting small businesses, and literally closing a high school for, especially if my kids and neighbors made up 80% of that school. George F. Baker is, for all intents and purposes, Greenwood Lake High School.

 

Each voter must make his or her own decision, and should actively voice an opinion to the Greenwood Lake Board of Education. We fully respect the right to choose, but we ask that this critical choice be based on what is best for the children of Greenwood Lake, not empty promises of tax savings. 

William A. Sweet

President

Tuxedo Chamber of Commerce

Stevens & Sweet Financial 


Where Does This Data Come From?                 

Tax records are public and can be searched at the Orange County database here, which is the source for the following data. 

Here are the four randomly-selected Greenwood Lake properties that are currently paying property tax to the Tuxedo Union Free School District (data from tax year 2011):

TAX ID ASSESSED VALUE SCHOOL TAX STAR TAX PAID
310-1-1.2 29,400 $4,408.10 ($881.00) $3,527.10
76-5-2 28,000 $4,198.19 ($881.00) $3,317.19
76-7-2 28,600 $4,288.15 ($881.00) $3,407.15
307-2-15 31,500 $4,722.97 ($881.00) $3,841.97

These Greenwood Lake properties average to:

Assessment: $29,375 
School Tax: $4,404.35
STAR Savings: $881.00
Tax Paid: $3,523.35


Here are the four randomly-selected Warwick properties that are currently paying property tax to the Warwick Valley School District (data from tax year 2011):


TAX ID ASSESSED VALUE SCHOOL TAX STAR TAX PAID
213-5-5 28,100 $3,901.92 ($795.00) $3,106.92
3/1/1938 28,100 $3,901.92 ($795.00) $3,106.92
36-5-29 29,700 $4,124.09 ($795.00) $3,329.09
215-4-17 31,600 $4,387.92 ($795.00) $3,592.92

These Warwick properties average to:

Assessment: $29,375 
School Tax: $4,078.96
STAR Savings: $795.00
Tax Paid: $3,383.96

As quoted in the article above, average difference in the tax rates only amount to $239.39 per year - drastically lower than the cost savings that is quoted across the news stream.