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LIPA Grievance Could Push Port Jeff Tax Rate to 2nd Highest in Brookhaven

Currently, district is second lowest in the township above Fire Island.

Excluding Fire Island, Port Jefferson residents pay the lowest school tax rate in all of Brookhaven, according to Assistant Superintendent for Business Sean Leister.

In a presentation on the proposed budget for next year, Leister outlined the taxes paid by every school in the township. Because of the makeup of Fire Island’s school district, Leister said he could even discount them to put Port Jefferson at the lowest level.

The main reason that Port Jefferson residents are on the lower end of the scale is the Long Island Power Authority, which carries 47 percent of the tax levy from taxes paid on the power plant in the village. Currently, on the property seeking to reduce its rate by as much as 90 percent. If successful not only to the district but to the library and the village government as well, both of which get a significant portion of their revenue from property taxes on the power plant.

According to Leister, if that revenue went away then would jump from the second lowest rate payer to the second highest in Brookhaven.

In comparison, Fire Island pays a very low $21.66 per $1,000 of assessed value while Port Jefferson is next up the ladder at $131.60. The district that pays the highest rate, Bayport-Blue Point, is at $265.22.

Leister didn’t give an exact dollar amount but the district paying the second highest rate is William Floyd at $257.62. Port Jefferson’s tax rate–if revenue from LIPA’s property taxes disappears–is assumed to be somewhere between Bayport-Blue Point ($265.22) and William Floyd ($257.62).

Neighboring school districts sit somewhere in the middle of the pack with Three Village at $221.93, Mount Sinai at $228.43 and Comsewogue at $216.80 per $1,000. (See attached PDF for the full list.)

Superintendent Kenneth Bossert has been attending meetings around the village with Leister that voters must decide on this coming May. One thing that Bossert has repeatedly said is that the biggest unknown for the district is the fate of the power plant tax revenue.

“The agency that will lose the greatest level of funding will be the school district,” he said at a recent village trustee meeting.

Because of that, Bossert said that the school budget has been built with a great degree of flexibility in spending. One-time expenditures like capital improvements can be put off if needed. In addition, last year’s budget had no increase in spending but an increase of almost 9 percent on the tax levy, allowing the school to run as it had done in the past.

“It was not an increase in spending,” said Leister at a recent presentation of the budget. “It was an increase in how we were paying for it.”

The reserve had a balance of $4,526,936, as of June 2011. That money, according to Leister, can be used to help buffer the impact of an anticipated decrease in tax revenue from LIPA if the utility is .

At the school board meeting on Tuesday night, Leister said that even though state law allows exceptions like capital and pension contributions that would enable the district to raise the tax levy to 3.17 percent this year and still not be over the cap, the administration decided that after last year’s dramatic increase, it was best to stick to the maximum of 2 percent.

The school budget proposal is available on the school district’s website for review. Voting on the school budget is set for Tuesday, May 15, 2012 from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the cafeteria at .

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