March 2003
Focus on Local Taxes

From the NYS Assembly • Sheldon Silver, Speaker
Herman D. Farrell, Jr., Chair, Ways and Means Committee

What the experts are saying about Pataki’s budget

"We do know that if you implement a $1.2 billion cut at the state level you’re going to shift that to the local taxpayer. If that’s the case, we’re looking at double-digit tax increases at the local level and I think you’ll find a significant number of these budgets going down."

- Timothy Kremer, Executive Director of the New York State School Boards Association

"Unless money falls down from the sky, we are in deep, deep trouble."

- Leslie Lewis, Cheektowaga Central School District Superintendent

"The business community, they can’t hire lots of people with an eighth-grade education."

- Richard Mills, State Education Commissioner

"The results will scar our children and your cities at a time when New York cannot afford further scars."

- Donald Van Every, Buffalo Board of Education Member

"The proposed executive budget will have a devastating effect on local school districts. …We have read the projections of curtailed sports programs, ballooning class sizes, elimination of the arts from elementary schools and staff cuts. Others are reporting double-digit property tax increases to maintain programs."

- Thomas Gallagher, Rome School District Superintendent

"If we shortchange the state’s education budget now, we risk shortchanging our children’s futures in the classroom and the workplace."

- Karen Schimke, President of Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy

Pataki Administration: Property taxes "not a concern" of the state

The governor has been traveling the state, repeating his promise to avoid "job-killing taxes." But because of his proposed $1.4 billion cut to education funding, the average property tax statewide would have to go up nearly 20 percent just to maintain current services. So after an event in Watertown on March 4, Lt. Governor Mary Donohue was rightly asked whether a property tax increase was, in fact, another job-killing tax. According to the next day’s Watertown Daily Times, "She responded by saying property taxes are a local issue and not a concern of the state." The school aid cut, coupled with a freeze on the basic STAR property tax relief program, underscores the governor’s lack of concern for local taxpayers.

In reality, property taxes are one of the deadliest kinds of taxes when it comes to job creation. With higher property tax rates, new businesses are reluctant to open, other businesses are less inclined to relocate to an area, and families are less able to afford homes. If that’s not a job-killing tax, what is? For the governor, a tax hike is only a tax hike when he decides to call it one.

Belt tightening and paper shortages – lessons our kids don’t need to learn

Of course, school districts aren’t required to raise taxes – assuming they’re willing to pare programs to the bone and offer kids a sub-standard education. According to Lt. Governor Donohue, that kind of paring may be good for kids. She said, "[M]oney isn’t all that matters in education…The lessons our kids will learn from belt tightening in education will be a positive for them." That’s an awfully hard lesson for schoolchildren – especially the 60,000 four-year-olds who will be locked out of their pre-K classrooms.

According to the Daily Times, she suggested schools cut down on paper to help pay for the largest school aid cut in history.

Education cuts are a
tax on our future

What the governor is pushing on localities is a cynical, politically-motivated Catch-22: Either slash programs and offer kids a second-rate education, or raise taxes to maintain current standards – in essence, replacing the rising stars in our classrooms with the fallen STARs of inflated taxes and impoverished schools.

Whether or not localities raise taxes or cut education programs, the governor is effectively limiting our ability to compete in the future. We simply cannot attract jobs to the state without a first-rate workforce, and we can’t build a first-rate workforce with second-rate schools. We can’t get a workforce to stay in the state, either, if we’re pricing working families out through higher property taxes. If New York continues on with the same anemic rates of job creation, we’ll see stagnation for many more years to come.

The Assembly is fighting the governor’s wrong choices

Of course, tough times call for tough choices, but they have to be the right choices – and the governor’s definitely are not. That’s why the Assembly is committed to fighting the governor’s shortsighted budget – and his regressive tax hikes.

New Yorkers don’t deserve higher property taxes and second-rate schools.

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