Clarkstown Schools’ Fiscal Crisis

 

imageVoters will sometime in the near future be asked to approve a multi-million dollar bond to fix the infrastructure of Clarkstown Schools but it may not pass because of taxpayer exhaustion and anger at rising property taxes.

Why?

There are three entities that affect property taxes – the County, the Town, and the Schools in order of magnitude from smallest to largest of one’s tax bills. Two of these entities (the County and the Town) do not have to go to the public for approval to issue bonds (i.e. to take out additional mortgages on your home for you to pay off through taxation over a period of decades).

Only the School Board must get approval from the voters for each and every bond that it issues and therein lies a problem.

The County spent itself into near bankruptcy with deficit spending and has recently bonded an approximately $100 million mortgage on Rockland County Properties to pay for that deficit spending. The Town of Clarkstown has been deficit spending for many years while piling up over $100 million of bonded debt in mortgages on Clarkstown’s homes to be paid for from your future property taxes.

At a workshop held in April the Town of Clarkstown proposed adding an additional approximately $45 million in bonded debt over the five year period 2014 – 2018. Despite hours of discussion no way could be found to significantly lower this predicted expenditure. The interest alone on the Town’s bonded debt exceeds the tax cap. You don’t need a degree in finance to understand what this means to future tax increases coming from the Town of Clarkstown

At the same time the Town of Clarkstown has depleted its reserve fund in covering its deficit spending. It is now in danger of losing its Triple A bond rating and is proposing to sell a valuable and profitable town asset, the Middlewood Senior Housing Complex, to rebuild its reserve fund in the short term while continuing to deficit spend and while continuing to bond supposedly needed ‘revitalization’ projects.

This is the same Town Board that attended packed school board meetings at Clarkstown South High School and lined up in unison to lecture the school board on the latter’s incompetence in handing the school board budget while demanding (declaring themselves private citizens) that the school board support the repair of the elementary school in Congers.

That was political grandstanding at its most outrageous given the Town’s inability to produce balanced budgets of its own and maintain its required reserve fund levels.

This is the same Town Board that lost a $20 million tax appeal by the Palisades mall at a cost of over $1 million in legal fees and which Supervisor Gromack declared would have no effect on the taxpayers. The School Board had to take $15 million dollars from its reserves to pay its portion of this loss. The Clarkstown Town Board had so depleted its reserves that it had to bond (i.e. place another mortgage on your property) to pay the $5 million portion that was its liability.

We now have a situation where $20 million went to upgrading the Palisades Mall while an amount of four to five times that amount will have to be coughed up by the Clarkstown taxpayers as a bond to repair Clarkstown’s crumbling schools.

Given it is the politicians in both the County Legislature and on the Clarkstown Town Board that have exhausted the public’s patience with their rampant spending and property tax increases, is it not ironic that public attendance at the monthly Town Board meetings is practically zero?

Is it not ironic that while the School Board sat to be lectured by the members of the Town Board of Clarkstown not one of the School Board members has attended County or Town meetings to lecture the members of those bodies to stop their reckless spending and their reckless bonding?

They should do so in order that the voters might be given a tax break if they are to be asked to dig into their pockets again for yet another mortgage on their homes to fix the most valuable asset we have in maintaining  home values – a viable and quality school system.

Photo Credit – http://www.tradestation.com/en/education/university/markets-and-trading-resource-center/articles/bonds/municipal-bonds

About Michael N. Hull

Michael N. Hull has lived in Rockland County for 35 years where he writes articles on philosophy and political affairs. Hull has written over 300 articles for New City Patch and Rockland Voice. He is presently a senior editor of the Facebook page Clarkstown: What They Don't Want You To Know and a senior editor of Rockland Voice.

About the Author
Michael N. Hull has lived in Rockland County for 35 years where he writes articles on philosophy and political affairs. Hull has written over 300 articles for New City Patch and Rockland Voice. He is presently a senior editor of the Facebook page Clarkstown: What They Don't Want You To Know and a senior editor of Rockland Voice.