Consider this: according to the 2002 census, the average local property tax in New York was $3,750 per household, an amount exceeded only by Connecticut and New Jersey. If you add in other taxes, such as sales and income, that figure jumps to $6,377. That number is the highest in the continental United States, and we pay more than twice the national average of $2,952.
To provide relief, the state Senate majority is proposing to provide $2.4 billion in property tax relief as part of their three-year, 25-point “Rebate NY” plan. This is a great place for us to start reforming the burdensome property tax system in New York.
The Assembly minority conference has been working to save you money by fighting for property tax reform for years. We continue to debate with the Assembly majority to inspire them to also provide a property tax relief plan.
Property taxes in New York, on average, increased by an astounding 19.6 percent between 1997 and 2002, and were accompanied by an increase of 30 percent in local government spending. The average annual increase of school tax levies since 2001 has been 7.7 percent. We obviously want to maintain our schools and create better environments for our children to learn in, but I believe it would be prudent to look further into school spending and determine just how much of this increase is necessary and what we can do to control spending.
All taxpayers have felt the burden of constantly increasing property taxes and property value assessments. Taxes have become such a problem that some residents have been forced out of their homes. The cost of living in New York is out of proportion when compared to other states and has pushed people out of the state. We need to make a change because our children and potential business owners are reluctant to live and locate here.
The Assembly minority conference earlier created the Assembly Minority Commission on Alternatives to School Property Taxes. Its job is to research the current property tax dilemma. Commission members have held hearings around the state to give residents opportunities to voice their opinions and suggest solutions, and I hope that you all attend future forums and let your voices be heard.
Several ideas have so far resulted from the commission’s work. Some people have suggested changing from a property tax to an income-based tax to raise revenue to support school districts. Others recommend raising state sales taxes to fund education. Additionally, there is a proposal to put a cap on property tax assessments. All proposals have pros and cons, and we are trying to find a way to balance them so we can develop the most effective relief plan.
This year promises to be exciting for New York and my legislative colleagues, and I know property tax reduction has to be a top priority. We promise to contemplate every possible way to save New Yorkers money while making our schools better places to learn.