At the same time, Haldane taxes would drop 20%

School property taxes in Garrison would jump at least 33 percent if the district were to combine with Haldane, according to an analysis conducted by the administration.

The increases would be three times that if the district were to merge with the Putnam Valley or Lakeland districts, the study concluded.

As a result, board members appeared largely disinterested in a merger feasibility study, which would be the next step toward combining with another district.

“My gut tells me this is an absolute dead end,” said Trustee David Gelber at the board’s Wednesday (Oct. 18) meeting.

Sarah Tormey, the board president, said that “paying more to give our kids less does not make sense.” Tormey said that when combining with another district, the students would likely lose public high school choice (they can now attend Haldane, O’Neill or Putnam Valley), have fewer sports opportunities and lose classes such as environmental education.

Superintendent Carl Albano, who retired last month but was appointed by the board on Oct. 4 as the interim for the remainder of the 2023-24 school year, said that doing a feasibility study would create instability in the district. “You run a big risk,” he said. “Resumes will go out.”

After the discussion, Tormey said there seemed to be no consensus to move forward with a feasibility study. The board did briefly discuss conducting a demographic study to analyze enrollment, as well as a five-year financial plan.

Garrison studied the tax issue in light of its budget challenges in recent years. Several members of the community who had spoken in favor of a feasibility study attended the meeting Wednesday but left without comment after hearing the results of the tax study.

In 2022, the district proposed a budget that would have raised taxes by 9.18 percent. That plan failed to get approval from at least 60 percent of voters to override that year’s state-mandated tax cap of 2.2 percent. Voters then approved a spending plan that included a 6.6 percent tax increase. (The increase for 2023 was 3.3 percent, making the state cap.)

The Garrison and Haldane districts have the lowest school property tax rates in Putnam County. For 2022-23, Garrison had a rate of $9.75 per $1,000 of market valuation, while Haldane’s was $16.97 per $1,000. By contrast, the Brewster school district has the highest in the county, at $25.58.

At the meeting, Joseph Jimick, the district business administrator, explained how the  administration calculated the potential tax increase by adding the Garrison and Haldane levies and subtracting an estimated $1 million in savings from shared costs to arrive at a $31.86 million levy for a combined district.

Jimick determined that, in the event of a merger, property taxes for residents of the Haldane district would drop by 20 percent for Philipstown residents and 25 percent for Fishkill and Putnam Valley residents.

Because of one-time state aid, the increase for Garrison residents would be slightly lower during the first year of the merger, at 27 percent, Jimick said. But after that year, the combined state aid for a new district would be a net loss.

“You end up with less aid than you would get if the districts were separate,” he said, noting that the calculations were consistent with a Haldane merger study conducted in 1999 by Bernard P. Donegan Inc.

If the Garrison district were to combine with Putnam Valley, the tax increase would be 98 percent for Philipstown residents and 76 percent for Putnam Valley residents, Jimick said. If the district were to combine with Lakeland, the increase would be 101 percent for Philipstown residents and 100 percent for Putnam Valley residents, he added.

Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Joey Asher is a freelance writer and former reporter for The Journal News.

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  1. I don’t understand. I have heard in other contexts that New York State prefers larger school districts over smaller ones, and yet the Garrison School’s business administrator is claiming that state (and perhaps federal) aid would be reduced in the case of a merger with Haldane.

    It would be nice to probe this issue a bit deeper so residents can better understand how merging leads to this unfortunate outcome. It’s disappointing to hear about public incentives stacked on the side of remaining separate.

    1. The short answer is that the state’s complex aid formula penalizes relatively wealthy districts such as Garrison and Haldane and combined they would be penalized even further. Joseph Jimick, the business manager, noted during his presentation that a consultant hired by the district in 1999 had reached the same conclusion.

  2. Based on your reporting of comments from Garrison school board members, it may well be that there are now enough nails in the coffin to bury the idea of merging the Garrison and Haldane school districts. Although it is unlikely this specter will soon be revived, in the spirit of the season allow me to add one more nail to the long list of negatives that should doom this ill-born concept.

    The district’s business administrator, Joe Jimick, admirably documented the dramatic rise in Garrison school taxes that would result from a merger. But that tells only part of the tax story. It fails to observe the concomitant reduction in property values relative to neighboring districts that inevitably accompany large local tax increases. To get the idea, look no further than Continental Village, where houses on the high-tax Lakeland district side of the street sell at a substantial discount to identical properties on the low-tax Garrison district side.

    O’Rourke is a former Garrison school board president.

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