New Yorkers have long paid some of the highest real property taxes in the country, with homeowner taxes in most of the state ranging from 30 percent to 178 percent above the national average as a percentage of property values.1
Between 1999 and 2009, total property tax levies outside New York City increased by 5.4 percent a year, more than double the average inflation rate of 2.6 percent. School taxes grew the fastest– an average of 6.3 percent a year. Property taxes in New York kept going up even as property values, personal incomes and consumer prices were going down during the severe recession of 2007-09.
Massachusetts: showing the way
The other major landmark in the property tax revolt came in Massachusetts in November 1980. By a 59-41 percent margin, that state’s voters passed Proposition 2½. The key provision capped total property taxes in each municipality at 2.5 percent of the full market value of taxable property. Most significantly, the annual growth in each municipality’s tax levy was also capped at 2.5 percent.
Bang for the buck
As of 2008, Massachusetts schools spent $13,454 per pupil—eighth highest of any state but 28 percent below New York’s top-ranking expenditure of $17,173, according to U.S. Census data.38 Massachusetts appears to get significantly more bang for its education buck. For example:
- In 2009, Massachusetts pupils outscored every other state in the country on three of four NAEP reading and mathematics exams, and tied for first on the fourth. By comparison, New York’s national rankings on the same tests were much lower. A composite ranking of state NAEP scores placed Massachusetts first and New York 19th.39
- SAT scores for college-bound Massachusetts high school students were well above national averages on the critical reading, mathematics and writing sections of the test in 2010, while the SAT scores of New York’s college-bound students were below the national averages in all three categories.40 The difference couldn’t simply be explained a way as a product of different test-taking levels; in fact, the 86 percent SAT participation rate of Massachusetts students was slightly higher than New York’s 85 percent.41
- A “Quality Counts” ranking of state public school systems by Education Week, which gives a heavier weight to relative school spending, assigned a “B” to Massachusetts and New York, although Massachusetts spends considerably less per pupil. Massachusetts topped the Education Week K-12 Achievement Index and Chance-for-Success Index.42
The Case for A Cap - Why and How It Can Work in New York