Assemblywoman Galef Proposes New Way to Cut Local School Taxes and Save Health Care Costs

August 5, 2008
Assemblywoman Sandy Galef, in response to New York’s current economic crisis and in consideration of the recommendations of the Suozzi Commission, has proposed a fundamentally new way to pay for certain education expenses in New York State. Galef recommended in a letter sent to Governor Paterson on July 31st that the New York State government should take over health care costs of school employees statewide by folding school employees into the Empire Plan used by other state civil servants.

Galef’s bold plan represents the type of creative, cost-cutting solutions necessary for New York State to overcome its current property tax crisis. The plan would cut health care costs by creating a larger pool of health care participants; decrease school budgets as schools are facing a property tax cap; and substantially reduce the tax levy for New York State property taxpayers in this time of economic tumult.

Galef’s plan would be a significant relief to both property taxpayers and local school districts. The recently released Suozzi Report recommended the state reconsider several of the mandates it imposes on local school districts. Health care for school employees is a continually increasing nondiscretionary expense that takes up a large percent of a local school district’s budget. By taking health care costs out of the local property tax levy, school districts can avoid making critical programmatic cuts and property taxpayers will see a substantially reduced tax burden in New York’s current economic climate. School districts would also save money that would otherwise be spent determining health care plans and negotiating with teachers.

Additionally, by shifting health care costs to the state government, the overall health care cost would be reduced because the Empire Plan, which is currently used by other civil servants but not all teachers, would be drawing from a larger pool of healthcare participants. The cost of health care for school employees would also be distributed more equitably since it would be paid for by the statewide income tax.

Galef said, “This plan represents the innovative, cost-cutting measures that are absolutely necessary for New York State to tackle its current property tax crisis. The decrease in the property tax levy that would come from the state funding health care for school employees would be significant relief for property taxpayers, who are telling us across the state that property taxes have gotten out of control. This plan would benefit local school districts, which would no longer be responsible for perpetually increasing health care costs, and could decrease competition between districts trying to offer better health care. School districts would also save money that would otherwise be spent on negotiating health care contracts with teachers, who would be part of the same health care plan enjoyed by other state civil servants, including me.”

The New York State School Boards Association recognizes health care costs as one of the four highest non-discretionary costs that school districts face. In 2005-2006, New York State school districts paid an aggregate cost of $3,737,116,479 on health care for employees, which was 15.25% of the total amount spent on education. Health care costs are increasing every year but would be reduced and paid for more equitably by Galef’s innovative new plan.

For more information on or a copy of the letter Galef sent to Governor Paterson, please contact her office at (914) 941-1111 or e-mail galefs@assembly.state.ny.us.