New York State School Boards Association

Commission on Property Tax Relief Report

FOR RELEASE:  June 2, 2008

CONTACT: David Albert
(518) 783-3716 or (518) 320-2221 cell

The New York State School Boards Association (NYSSBA) is pleased to see a number of meaningful recommendations for mandate relief included in the report issued today by the state Commission on Property Tax Relief.

However, NYSSBA believes rather than going directly to the imposition of a cap on local property tax levies, state policymakers should begin by tackling some of the tough mandate relief measures identified in the report. Imposing a tax cap while holding out the promise of mandate relief in the future does little to address the reasons behind rising property taxes.

Furthermore, we should ensure that the state keeps its commitment to properly funding our schools. The Commission correctly points out that New York State's contribution to total school district costs is only 43 percent, which is below the national average of 47 percent. In the last two years, when the state provided record amounts of education aid, school boards were able to keep property tax levy increases to a reasonable 3.7 and 3.4 percent, respectively. Voters responded with passage rates of 95 and 93 percent.

Thankfully, Chairman Thomas Suozzi and members of the Commission recognized the root causes of high property taxes and recommended several changes that have long been championed by school districts and taxpayers. These include:

  • Amending the Triborough provision of the Taylor Law to exclude teacher step increments from continuation until new contracts are negotiated
  • Evaluating the creation of a new pension tier that would reinstate worker contributions for the duration of their employment
  • Requiring school district employees to contribute 10 percent to their individual health insurance coverage, 25 percent for family coverage
  • Encouraging the creation of health care benefits trusts
  • Allowing school districts to opt-in to regional collective bargaining agreements
  • Eliminating regulatory mandates from the State Education Department without first evaluating the fiscal impacts on local governments
  • Eliminating legislative mandates without first evaluating the fiscal impact on local governments
  • Repealing the Wicks Law which drives up construction costs for schools and municipalities
  • Recognizing several BOCES cost-savings initiatives as a model for other school districts to follow
  • Providing budgetary incentives for school district consolidation

This report demonstrates members of the Commission understand that local school districts have very little ability to unilaterally restrain costs. By making these very tough, but necessary changes, we can greatly reduce our lopsided dependence on property taxes.

While school board members continue to work through the full set of recommendations included in the Commission's report, it is reassuring to see the Commission acknowledge that we should not compromise our investment in our children's education.


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