Long Islanders are feeling the pain for high property taxes along with the rest of the new yorkers. The very reason we need the Tax Cap proposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The following post by John H. Tedder explains it really well and it also goes thru some of the bullet points in the final report of the Commission on Property Tax Relief.
Consolidating school districts could save New York homeowners — who pay the highest property taxes in the nation — millions of dollars, but surprisingly, some don’t want to hear anything about it, especially if it involves their own school district.” So said Thomas R. Suozzi, in an article called “Streamline Education Through Consolidation” published in the Saratogian newspaper on Sunday, January 4, 2009. Suozzi is Nassau County Executive and chairman of the New York State Commission on Property Tax Relief.
New Yorkers pay the highest property taxes in the nation. I just wanted to repeat that so that it sinks in. New York property taxes are 78% higher than the national average. What is wrong with New York?
One of the recommendations that the commission made is to consolidate school districts that have fewer than 1,000 students. I don’t know why they picked that number. It seems to me that it could be done with larger school districts. It should be looked at on a district by district basis. What makes sense?
According to Suozzi, we spend more per student in New York than any other state in America. Suozzi also said that people in the education community and taxpayers like the idea of consolidation, except for communities that would actually be effected. He thinks people worry that schools will be closed and their school identity taken away. Consolidation has nothing to do with that.
Consolidation is about combining the administrative functions of a school district. It means having one school administration instead of two or three. For example, the school district in which I live, Schuylerville has 1,862 students. It could be consolidated with another nearby school district such as Stillwater (1312 students) or Saratoga Springs (6,857students) or possibly all three could be combined. Again, what makes sense?
Each school would retain its individual identity. Property taxes would be lowered due to greater efficiency of the district’s administration. If we can get the job done with one administration instead of three, let’s put that money back in the taxpayer’s pocket where it belongs. We can’t continue to keep doing things the same way just because that’s the way it has always been done. Especially when the citizens of a community can’t afford it.
Consolidating school districts using commonsense is not punishing our schools. It is using our available tax dollars wisely and giving the overburdened New York taxpayer a well deserved break. Consolidating school districts using commonsense is not punishing our schools. It is using our available tax dollars wisely and giving the overburdened New York taxpayer a well deserved break.
Below are some excerpts from the final report of the Commission on Property Tax Relief. You can read the entire report here. You don’t have to read it all at once. If your head starts to spin, just take a break and go back to it later. The report is 94 pages plus 40 pages of supporting documentation. It is an interesting document and very well done. Appendix B contains all of the recommendations of the committee.
High property taxes have the most negative impact on low and moderate income working families, seniors on fixed incomes, and small business owners, who must shoulder this burden regardless of their ability to pay. Whether your concern is decreasing education costs, or increasing education spending, or addressing inequities in school funding, or improving programs, virtually all agree the answer cannot be to continue to increase property taxes at the current rate. The rate of increase in property taxes over recent years is unsustainable, and simply unfair to those who cannot afford to pay.
New York schools outside of New York City spend more per student than any state in the nation – an estimated $18,768 in 2008-09. New York’s per student spending is more than 50 percent above the national average. This results from high personnel costs; the number and complexity of mandates and expense of compliance, especially those that govern special education; and the large number of school districts, many of which are small.
The Commission recommends that the State support school districts’ efforts to rein in the costs of salaries, pensions and health care, as well as general operating and capital expenses. These recommendations address the root causes of high property taxes by adopting the following proposed solutions:
- Increase health insurance premium contributions by employees and provide health insurance coverage jointly with other public employers or school districts, including increased use of health benefit trusts.
- Centralize and streamline school district reporting to decrease personnel and other costs associated with sometimes duplicated and unnecessary forms and other filing requirements.
- Require consolidation of school districts with fewer than 1,000 students and grant the Commissioner of Education discretionary authority to order consolidation of school districts with fewer than 2,000 pupils to achieve economies of scale and to increase educational opportunities through expanded course offerings.
- Create countywide property tax assessment and uniform statewide assessing standards.
by John H. Tedder
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