June 9, 2008
On June 2, 2008, the New York State Commission on Property Tax Relief, the creation of former Governor Elliot Spitzer and chaired by his rival Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi, delivered its long awaited report. Released in the context of a worsening economy, the report’s central call for capping the annual growth of property taxes at the lesser of 4% or 120 % of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) (the federal government’s measure of inflation) may appeal to a public anxious about their balloon mortgages, $4 a gallon gasoline, a worsening job market, and rising food prices. On a recent trip to Albany to talk about education with our community’s members of the legislature, there was clearly a good deal of nervous talk about a property tax cap even before the Suozzi Commission issued its report.
Make no mistake about it, capping property taxes at 4% or 120 % of the CPI is a one way ticket to disaster. It poses the real potential to crush public education in New York in a way that charter schools and proposals for tuition tax credits never could. One need only look at what happened to the California schools after the infamous Proposition 13, the golden state’s version of a tax cap. Once the envy of the nation, the California schools are now considered some of the worst in the nation. People in California were lulled into thinking that you could deprive schools of vital resources and still maintain quality, their ever escalating property taxes blinding them to what common sense should have told them – artificially capping the funding source of education ultimately must limit the ability of the schools to serve their students.
If the cap had been in place this school year, Plainview-Old Bethpage would have been forced to reduce its budget by a little over $7,000,000 - $8,500,000 for next year. What would we have cut? We need to stop this proposal now. While there needs to be a progressive alternative to ever higher property taxes, that revenue stream must be in place before we start capping the major source of education funding.
We must let Governor Paterson and the members of the legislature know that while we want a fairer way to fund public school, we don’t want to deprive them of the resources they need to educate our children. Clicking on the links above will take you to the web page of our state organization where in seconds you can send faxes to the Governor and your state assembly person and senator, letting them know that you don't wish limit the ability of to our schools to do their job that a property tax cap is a cap on quality. I believe you need to do this and do it urgently.
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