Unless there is an immediate upsurge in wisdom, Governor-elect Cuomo and the legislature appears to be poised to make a two percent property tax cap the law of New York.  Combined with a large state budget gap that is bound to yield a reduction in state aid to education, a property tax cap will ineluctably lead to substantial school program cuts and school employee layoffs.  A two percent lid on property tax increases will barely allow most school districts to meet their increasing costs for pensions, health care and other built in expenditures.  Despite the known damage to school districts that such caps have caused in state like California, our governor elect seems hell-bent to demagogue this issue, attempting to out Republican the Republicans in their contempt for government services, services which the public is quick to scorn until they donít have them anymore.  The saddest part of all this nonsense is that a property tax cap of the kind being discussed doesnít help those who are truly unable to meet their ever rising property tax bills.  It just caps the increase.  Thatís a big help to some one who is unable to pay his current bill.  

            Real property tax relief would reduce the property taxes of those that truly need help.  Serious political leaders would be talking to the public about a property tax cap tied to family income.  That is, if a familyís property taxes grew beyond a certain percentage of their income, their property taxes would be capped with the relief being provided from a credit against their state income taxes.  In one bill introduced in the New York State Assembly, there is a sliding income scale, with family income of $50,000 and under having their property taxes capped at three percent,  with those earning $200,000 at seven percent.  No doubt that there would be a heated debate as to the percentage of family income at which the cap should be triggered, but, after that political battle, those in serious need of property tax relief would have it.  If we really want to help those who canít shoulder any more property taxes, thatís what we would do. Of course this so-called circuit breaker tax cap will not be popular with those who really donít need relief but who just resent paying taxes.  Such people are not typical, however.  

            When presented with the circuit breaker kind of tax cap as an option in focus groups, the public supports the greater fairness it provides.  Our politicians unfortunately donít often present with this option.  Neither do they inform the citizens what can happen to their schools when the ability when revenues can no longer support existing programs.  Instead, people like Governor-elect Cuomo attempt to wage a phony war against the dedicated public servants of this state instead of offering them more complex alternatives, but alternatives that would maintain the quality of their communities.  Doesnít he think weíre smart enough to locate our own self-interest?  

            I urge every PCT member, every citizen, to resist the siren call demagogues like Cuomo.  Property taxes are a problem that can be fixed without destroying public services and without making war on the people who educate our kids.   Get in touch with the  members of the legislature today.  Tell them you want real property tax relief for the truly needy.  Tell them to support a circuit breaker property tax cap.


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