North Rockland school district gets relief in state budget

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The North Rockland School District is about to get some much-needed assistance dealing with a record-setting tax burden that has plagued the district for more than a decade.

On Tuesday Senator James Skoufis (D-Hudson Valley), and Assemblymember Ken Zebrowski (D-Rockland) announced a historic investment in school aid for the North Rockland School District in this year’s state budget and, with it, a freeze in property taxes for the 2021-2022 school year.

North Rockland’s fiscal woes began in 2003 when Mirant Energy, a utility company that was one of the largest taxpayers in the district, filed for bankruptcy and subsequently had the property value of its plants reassessed. That same year, after the company challenged previous tax assessments of their property, it was ruled that Mirant had been overpaying taxes; North Rockland Schools were ordered to reimburse the company 224 million dollars. For 18 years the district has spent more than 10 million dollars annually to foot that bill.

Senator Skoufis and Assemblyman Zebrowski secured two key provisions in the recently enacted state budget which provide financial relief for the district to, in turn, be able to hold the line on school taxes all while increasing school programming. Skoufis, Zebrowski, and school officials announced that there will be no increase in the property tax levy in the forthcoming school budget. At a time when so many families need a break from ever-increasing taxes, today’s announcement is a big win for North Rockland taxpayers.

The first provision in the budget that provides financial support is a special tax certiorari fund in the state budget for school districts experiencing significant financial hardships created by an extraordinary change in powerplant assessments. This will provide some taxpayer relief from the Mirant debt crisis in North Rockland, which is the largest tax certiorari in New York State history. Through this new fund, North Rockland will receive approximately $1 million.

More fundamentally, North Rockland will receive $52.56 million in core school aid, a $10.2 million increase from last year; that 24% increase is now a permanent fixture of North Rockland’s budget and should prove a huge benefit to the district.

“I, alongside my partner in government Assemblyman Zebrowski, made it our mission during budget negotiations to deliver historic levels of funding for North Rockland schools as well as tangible property tax
relief,” said Senator Skoufis. Both Skoufis and Zebrowski have fought for years to alleviate the district’s tax burden: while the duo had succeeded in providing piecemeal assistance over their nine legislative sessions, they are confident that this new effort “will address the heart of the problem.”

“Each year, an estimated $11 million dollars flies out the door toward debt that the North Rockland School District has been strapped with for decades – the largest tax certiorari in NYS history” said Assembly-member Ken Zebrowski. That’s millions of dollars being taken away from students, teachers, parents, and the North Rockland taxpayers. The historic infusion of funding that Senator Skoufis and I have successfully secured will be game-changing for the district and taxpayers.”

“Having been in the field of education for over 25 years as a teacher, coach, and principal, I know from all sides how essential it is to have a strong partnership with our representatives in state government,” said District Superintendent Kris Felicello.

“My immense gratitude to Senator Skoufis and Assemblyman Zebrowski for their many years of hard work on behalf of this school district. The historic funding in this state budget that Senator Skoufis and Assemblyman Zebrowski fought for will help this school district not just stay afloat but thrive in the way that our students, educators, and families deserve. I look forward to what’s ahead for our students and continuing to work together.”