Westhampton Beach Tax Rate Increases Due To Drop In Assessments

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Most taxpayers in the Westhampton Beach School District will see their property taxes jump by about 6.3 percent during the 2013-14 school year, nearly double what officials estimated in May using the prior year’s property assessments, due to an overall drop in land value.

During their meeting on Monday night, Westhampton Beach Board of Education members approved a tax levy of close to $27.3 million for the current school year, the same presented to the community during the budget review process last spring. The district reported at that time that if the assessments remained steady, the tax rate was projected to increase by about 3.6 percent, from $5.86 per $1,000 of assessed valuation during the 2012-13 school year to $6.07 per $1,000 this school year.

But on Tuesday, Schools Superintendent Michael Radday reported that the total assessed value of land in the district had dropped by close to $111 million, or about 2.5 percent, from $4.49 billion to $4.38 billion, and, as a result, the tax rate must go up to raise enough money to meet the tax levy.

Most taxpayers, however, saw the assessed value of their properties remain steady, meaning they will be asked to absorb the full tax hike. Only about 1,000, or 14 percent, of the roughly 7,000 taxable properties in the school district saw an actual decrease in property values.

The tax rate for the 2013-14 school year is now set at approximately $6.23 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, meaning a property owner with a home valued at $600,000 will pay $3,738 in school taxes this year or $222 more than last year. In May, taxpayers approved the district’s $53.5 million budget, 493-200.

Southampton Town Tax Assessor Lisa Goree explained in an email on Wednesday that the overall decrease in assessments in Westhampton Beach was due to market changes in various neighborhoods, small claims and damages caused by Hurricane Sandy last fall.

During the same meeting, officials also presented the district’s 2011-12 New York State Education report card to the Board of Education, as required by state law. Elementary School Principal Lisa Slover, Middle School Principal Charisse Miller and High School Principal Chris Herr all reported that the percentage of students in each grade level are performing well on state tests and exceeding the state and Suffolk County averages. They also said that all three schools had made “adequate yearly progress,” meaning educators are helping move students toward proficiency.

The principals also pointed out that Westhampton Beach students also performed at a higher level than the state and county averages on the state assessments they took last spring, which tested students on the rigorous Common Core learning standards.

While Westhampton Beach High School boasts a high number of students receiving advanced Regents diplomas, district officials said they had developed a plan to improve upon that number. Dr. Robert Finn, director of guidance and data management, explained Monday that the higher level math course, algebra II and trigonometry, is the biggest stumbling block students face in receiving their advanced diplomas. Under the plan, which he dubbed the “90-90-90 plan,” the goal is to have 90 percent of eligible students enrolled in the class, with 90 percent passing the Regents exam, and all within 90 weeks, or about two school years.

Currently, the district has about 83 percent of students enrolled in the course. “I think the goals are very achievable,” Mr. Radday said.

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