Assemblyman Michael Fitzpatrick (R,C,I-Smithtown) is calling on Gov. George E. Pataki to appeal the recent court-appointed panel’s decision addressing school funding for New York City schools.
"To fund the needs of New York City’s schools the state must ensure that all taxpayers throughout New York are treated fairly," said Fitzpatrick. "With no clear funding plan in place, fairness requires that Long Island taxpayers not be forced to bear any additional tax burden, directly or indirectly, to correct the failure of the New York City school system.
"To paraphrase Long Island Association President Matthew Crosson, the burden should be on New York City to show why, in the interest of true equity for New York state’s taxpayers, city taxpayers should not bear the cost of fixing their own schools. I’m all for improving the city’s schools, but not at the expense of Long Island’s taxpayers and students."
Fitzpatrick supports the LIA and the Long Island Education Coalition (LIEC) in their demand for a fair and equitable way to resolve the funding for New York City schools. The following reasons, he said, have been well formulated by the LIA:
- New York City has persistently failed to provide sufficient local tax support for its own schools.
Across New York, the average local share of the cost of education is 60 percent. On Long Island, the average local share is 72 percent, and in many districts it is as high as 90 percent. In New York City, the local share of education spending is only 46 percent – well below both the statewide average and the average paid locally by suburban school districts that succeed.
Historically, New York City schools have received approximately 37 percent of all state K-12 education spending. During the last several years the state has increased funding for the city’s schools substantially while the city’s local share of education costs actually decreased from 47 percent to 46 percent. This insufficiency of funding has contributed to the failure of the city’s school system and is linked directly to the city’s own failure to increase local spending on education.
- New York City’s tax burden is significantly lower than that of Long Island.
In its recommendations to the court in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) case, the panel of special masters cited a court document from the Citizens Budget Commission that stated New York City "already suffers from a high local tax burden" in recommending that the court warn the state Legislature against being "arbitrary or unreasonable in its allocation to the City of New York of a funding burden."
New York state has the highest combined state and local tax burden in the nation. The issue is how the city’s tax burden compares to tax burdens placed on other New York state taxpayers who will eventually be forced to provide some portion of the funding required to fix the city’s schools.
Since 2000, New York City’s property tax has increased by about 18 percent, but in 2004 Mayor Michael Bloomberg requested a property tax rebate of $400 – and the Legislature approved it. During that same period, the school district property tax levy on Long Island increased by over 44 percent.
According to the LIA, Long Island taxpayers chose to impose higher school-related property taxes on themselves in order to create high-quality schools that succeed. The results are that Long Island schools are considered the best in the state, and their educational outcomes consistently exceed results from the rest of the state.
- To repair their own failed school system, New York City taxpayers can afford to increase local taxes.
In 2000, New York city’s total taxes were $24.8 billion and its per capita income was $37,764. If the city increased its personal income tax rate and real property tax rates enough to produce an additional $5.53 billion levy at the end of four years, its total taxes would be $30.4 billion. If per capita income remained at $37,764, the 2009 tax burden in the city would be 10.05 percent, less than a tenth of 1 percent above the Long Island tax burden in 2000, nine years earlier.
New York City’s population will increase between now and 2009, as will its total personal income and, with it, per capita income. The same will be true on Long Island and in other suburbs. But the truth of the analysis is that New York City taxpayers could pay all the cost of improving their schools without bearing a higher tax burden than the suburbs.
The essential point of any solution is taxpayer equity. Equal tax treatment under the law is the foundation of the ultimate resolution of the CFE case in the Legislature. Any solution for the city’s schools that imposes additional direct taxes on Long Island and suburban taxpayers is unacceptable. Equally unacceptable would be a solution that indirectly passes along those additional costs, or allows them to filter down to local real property taxes, by imposing new burdens on, or reducing support for, school districts or local government.
- Long Island taxpayers already pay the highest property taxes in the nation.
The soon-to-be-published second edition of the "Long Island Index," using 2002 figures and drawing from a variety of sources, found that Long Island taxpayers pay the highest property taxes in the United States. Long Islanders pay $638 more in real property taxes per capita than taxpayers in the next highest state (New Jersey), $1,476 more than the U.S average, and $1,043 more than fellow New Yorkers.