OPPOSE MEMO: PROPERTY TAX CAP

S1904 Gaughran

The New York State AFL-CIO, representing 2.5 million union workers and their families, as well as our retirees and their families opposes the above-referenced legislation.

This bill amends the General Municipal Law and the Education Law to make the property tax cap permanent. The bill does not offer any reforms to the property tax cap, which created the ultimate unfunded mandate on local governments and school districts by inhibiting their ability to pay for the vital public services that communities rely on and continues a system that ties local voters’ hands when it comes to decision making.

Local governments and school districts provide a wide variety of services such as health care, transportation, public safety, law enforcement, fire safety, education, snow removal, parks and recreation, drinking water and sewer operation and maintenance. Important veteran, senior citizen and child care services are all performed by local governments - the list goes on.

The property tax cap was designed to keep local government tax levies below 2% annually. This arbitrary number does not consider inflation, increased enrollment in school districts, the cost of fuel, increased weather-related costs and a myriad of other factors not under the control of local and school administrators or voters.

The property tax cap does not include a maintenance of effort provision to ensure adequate state aid or any guarantee that the state government will assist local governments and schools in paying for these vital public services. Finally, while there is an override process, it requires a 60% vote by a local governing body and a 60% vote by the voters in the case of a school district. In the event an override does not pass, schools are prohibited from including any increase in the budget.

The property tax cap is too inflexible and punitive. The law should be amended to create more flexibility, allow for better funding of vital public services and allow voters to have more influence over the budget priorities in their own communities.

Therefore, this Federation urges this bill be defeated.

For further information contact the Legislative Department at 518-436-8516.