Nearly 90 percent of respondents to this week’s RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll favor a property tax cap applying to all school districts and local governments in New York.
New York has the highest property taxes in the nation—they are 59 percent above the national average. Outside New York City, school taxes account for 62 percent of the total property tax burden.
Earlier this month, the state Senate approved Gov. David Paterson’s proposal to cap annual increases in local property taxes at 4 percent or 120 percent of the rate of inflation, whichever is lower. The Assembly has not acted on the measure. Nine percent of readers prefer this proposal.
Meanwhile, Democratic gubernatorial candidate and Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has proposed an even tighter cap: 2 percent or the inflation rate, whichever is lower. Eighty percent of respondents favor the 2 percent cap.
Opponents including the New York State United Teachers union say “arbitrary” tax caps erode local control, harm effective school district programs and penalize the poorest communities. Ten percent of Snap Poll respondents oppose capping property taxes.
New Jersey lawmakers this summer imposed a 2 percent limit on annual property tax increases by local governments.
Nearly 645 readers participated in this week’s poll, which was conducted Aug. 16 and 17.
Do you favor or oppose a property tax cap for New York?
I favor a cap of no more than 4 percent: 9 percent
I favor a cap of no more than 2 percent: 80 percent
I oppose a property tax cap: 10 percent
A cap on property taxes is long overdue. Letting school districts have unlimited taxing authority has led to overly generous union wage, benefit and (especially) pension contracts over the years. Even as student populations are stagnant or declining, school budgets seem to go up and up in a never-ending spiral. Even the so-called “austerity budgets” often implemented when the voters say no at the polls are hardly austere. I say, shut off the spigot! “This is all you’re getting, so figure it out!” It’s the only way they will ever listen.
—George Thomas, Ogden
A state-mandated tax cap relieves local municipal leaders from having to make important decisions. The answer will be that Albany made us do this. As a town supervisor and budget officer for eight years back in the 1990s, I was able to lower the town tax rate from $1.51/$1,000 to $0.44/$1,000 over eight years, paid off all townwide debt, acquired no new debt, paid for capital projects in cash and left the town with hundreds of thousands of dollars more than when I started. Elected officials have one thing on their minds at all times—how to get elected again. And they spend whatever it takes to keep the voters happy. Politicians think only of the next election; leaders think of the next generation.
—Ed Jackson, retired
We already rank the highest in the country. A 4 percent cap is outrageous. Compound your current property taxes at 4 percent and see where you end up in a few years. There should be a zero increase in property taxes and concentration on getting all public expenses under control, especially the number of public employees, their salaries, benefits and retirement costs. The public sector is top-heavy and way out of control.
A property tax cap is nothing but a feel-good measure; it is no panacea for the state’s ills. With a cap in place, schools will have no choice but to cut vital programs like art and music when their costs go up.
—Matthew D. Wilson
Imposing a tax cap is like treating cancer with a Hello Kitty Band-Aid. It may be cute and make some of the hurt go away for a while, but it won’t solve the underlying issue. What we need is fiscal restraint and real legislative reform, both of which require voters to elect actual leaders to roles in Albany. The underlying problem is the set of rules the Legislature has created for itself. When Sheldon Silver finally goes away, he’ll be replaced by another who rose through the same system to operate in the same way. Until those rules are made more rational, we will continue to have these problems.
I favor a spending cap. Tax caps don’t work. Taxes appear in other places as fees, and uncontrolled spending continues.
I only support a tax cap if it is tied to reducing state mandates to schools. If this is not done and state funding to schools continues to be cut, the tax cap will cause school boards to make cuts that will affect the quality of education in New York.
—Phillip Trautman, Jamestown Container
I would prefer mandating tax cuts but am willing to accept a limit. Our elected officials demonstrate no fiscal responsibility. I also would link the limit to debt growth, although I prefer debt reduction.
—Dennis Kiriazies, retired
A property tax cap is very appealing, but the real issue is spending. Out-of-control pensions and frivolous school programs are good places to start. School budgets should be presented in a way that allows taxpayers to really understand how their money is spent.
New York State needs to go beyond a cap and enact real tax reductions. Allowing increases on top of already high property taxes will not stop the exodus of productive people and businesses from our area. Cut state and local spending and lower property taxes to no more than 2 percent of a home’s true market value, and combine this with a firm 2 percent tax cap.
—Michael Caceci, Pittsford
If property taxes are capped, the various local and state governments will just find other ways to raise money with other taxes and fees. We have a very dysfunctional state government. Expenditures should be reduced by 10 percent or more. If that is not done, we will just have our pockets picked because it is easier for our elected officials to raise revenue than to make the hard decisions on cutting costs.
—Gerry Van Strydonck
Taxes in New York are out of control. Spending at the state level has got to be brought to a sustainable amount. Cutbacks to the work force need to be done. The first place I would like to see the cuts take place is the personal staff of the legislators and governor. I did not see one layoff from these areas. The legislator is a part-time job! Why do they need so many people working for them?
I would much rather see the state budget cut to levels that we can afford so that the tax rates do not rise. A tax cap is a reactionary action rather than a proactive action. But we all know that our state legislators are not the proactive kind.
It’s really a moot point—capping taxes that are already WAY TOO HIGH doesn’t help REDUCE them.
N.J. Gov. Chris Christie has the right idea. In the face of New Jersey’s fiscal collapse, he asked for the teachers’ union to forego raises for one year. He stated that 58 percent of U.S. citizens have either lost their job or had their pay lowered. New York needs a property tax cap of no more than 2 percent. We have to live within our means. It just surprises me that it’s a Democrat, Cuomo, stealing the tax cut agenda from the Republicans. Hopefully Cuomo’s lower tax promise won’t have the same result as Barack Obama’s no tax cut promise for the bottom 95 percent of us.
—Clifford Jacobson, WebHomeUSA.com
Cap? What cap? This will just give them the perpetual reason to raise your property taxes every year. Hey, you losers in Albany, how about lowering our taxes? Don’t increase spending 7.5 percent over the previous year, don’t increase fees and come up with new gimmick to raise funds, how about spending less, you buttheads! How about someone else other than the three stooges from New York City work on the budget? I have three years until my kid gets out of school here, and then I’m moving my business out of the cesspool.
—Jim Duke, Victor
The issue (runaway taxes and public spending) will be more effectively addressed if there are not only controls like spending limits but INCENTIVES for legislators to develop an improved overall SYSTEM that produces more wealth and benefit more people. The incentive the legislators have is to promote and protect themselves at the expense of the much broader majority of people who elected them. Term limits should be introduced along with several other changes. The whole system must be reviewed and reformed. It is not working nor producing the desired results. "Greatest good for the greatest number" is the principle that should be followed and legislators should be incented to develop laws, controls, etc., which produce this result—it should be measured also.
What other means exists to slow down out-of-control spending by Albany?
—David Lamb, Rochester
Since our elected officials are held captive by the various unions—principally the school/teachers’ unions—we need a method of STOPPING these INSANE increases for the benefit of the very few (in comparison), since our elective officials don’t have the stomach to do what is right for the state of New York!
—J.A. DePaolis, Penfield
Candidate Cuomo should be putting the current legislators’ feet to the fire if his proposal is anything more than a calculated ploy.
Yes, I do favor it, but it’s like putting a Band-Aid on when you need to go to emergency. We need to reduce spending across the board in our state government. A 7 percent increase in the budget in a year when the residents are trying to keep their jobs shows no control in Albany.
Any cap must be subject to exceptions that will cover extraordinary needs. A cap reminds me of a Band-Aid approach, when we should deal with elimination, consolidation or other restructuring of government, education or otherwise. Our need is so fundamental that we should start with a Constitutional Convention to be made up of delegates not serving in public office at the state level.
—Nathan J. Robfogel
The current constitution caps property taxes for major cities at 2 percent of fair market value. This protection should be extended to all New Yorkers. Anything higher approaches expropriation.
—John Perry Smith, Total Information Inc.
It is sad that we must resort to such a blunt legislative approach to address the collective fiscal irresponsibility of school districts and local government. This is yet another argument for their consolidation.
Taxes 60 percent above the national average? What costs so much? Dysfunctional Albany? Graduation rates? Quality inner-city living? Lower crime rates? Vibrant downtowns? Clean, well maintained public parks? No potholes? No litter? Safe downtown? Plenty of private investment to provide jobs because of competent governance? No, it’s because of government payroll, pensions, welfare, unions, and just plain stupid budget practices that frankly, would be cause for lawsuits in the private sector. Do I want a tax cap? No, I want lower taxes! I want the leeches out of my pockets. If you work hard for your money, you should be able to keep it. NYS welfare benefits are ridiculous. It should be a crime to take a working man’s money and give it to someone else. Google "NYS welfare benefits" and have a barf bag ready! Then imagine the bureaucracy that runs it! Government pay? Government pensions? Out of control! This is not rocket science. Do your own research. This is YOUR town, state and country. When you have the facts, bring them to the voting booth this November.
Tax CAP? What about a DECREASE in property taxes. The only reason the teachers’ unions are against a cap is that the school districts would have to tighten their belts and (maybe?) not be as generous with retiree health and pension benefits. Well, that’s just too bad. It’s about time that the teachers were brought into the mainstream of "reality employment." If both the teachers AND the public employees were with us in industry, we wouldn’t be facing the HUGE deficits we currently are.
Property tax, income tax, sales tax—they are all too high. Our state government wastes money with almost no accountability. The private sector has had to make very painful cutbacks; we have the right to expect the public sector to be more vigilant with our money.
—Dan Mahany, Penfield
The real solution is to put the cap on spending! If the state could do that, we would not need to increase taxes. They just do not get it!
Government spending has spiraled out of control. Maybe cutting revenue opportunities will be a small incentive for our political leaders to examine their expenditures and cut some costs, as they can’t arbitrarily raise revenue to meet their outrageous spending habits. We should probably have a cap on ALL tax rates and government fees and have a cap on government borrowing.
If me and my fellow businessmen are scrutinizing every penny we spend, why shouldn’t our schools and towns? I think the cap should be 0 percent.
—Daniel Mossien, architect
Local voters should have the right to tax themselves or not as they wish. Albany does not have standing to impose this mandate. The Legislature should lower the taxes and fees for which they are responsible.
City, towns and villages across New York State need to adhere to basic financial literacy concepts—for example, create a budget where expenses do not exceed revenues. Over a period of time, disciplined efforts regarding annual budgets will result in modest property tax increases and hopefully beneficial services to taxpayers.
—Rick Ross, College Financing Group
I do NOT approve of higher property taxes, but I generally oppose all worthless legislation. A property tax cap is a worthless Band-Aid to fix a government that can’t control its own spending habits. That is like trying to take control of your personal finances by only taking money out of the bank and using only $5 and $10 bills. It won’t work until you control how and on what you spend your dollars. A government that can’t control its spending will find another way to tax its citizens, despite a property tax cap. The solution to high property taxes is fiscal responsibility, not excess legislation.
—John Crowley, Biznetix
I don’t hear anything about cost control or adjustment down of cost since New Yorkers and businesses have been leaving the state for 20 years? Tax cap? Four percent, 2 percent? Most all school districts and local governments in New York have not raised taxes more than 1 percent to 2 percent or lower per year anyway. They are now setting the stage for runaway inflation that will take place! I favor 2 percent tax cap, NO adjustment for inflation. And government spending cuts need to be part of the formula.
Either we cap property taxes or we will continue to lose our senior population. And the younger generation will be leaving also, to start a family where they can afford to live.
—Diane Wesgate, Victor Furniture, Inc.
The cap would assist in limiting spending increases, a fiscally responsible direction in this economic environment. It also helps the many homeowners on fixed incomes. Now if we can only control spending and roll back exorbitant benefit packages!
A property tax cap applying to all school districts and local governments in New York is absolutely, positively vital, or the exodus of residents to lower-taxed southern states will continue to increase. With average property taxes statewide at nearly 60 percent above the national average, New York State residents simply cannot afford unlimited annual property tax increases. Sadly, it has simply become too expensive to be a New York State resident, thanks to the state government in Albany.
—Ted Benjeski, Henrietta
Quite frankly, tax caps are "smoke and mirrors." Why, I ask—why CAP the highest effective total tax rates as a percentage of value in the nation at a higher level every year? Why not reduce spending and lower taxes? Circuit breaker legislation would tie taxes paid to income levels. That is the smart, progressive way to eliminate regressive property taxation. Paterson and Cuomo both need to intellectualize the issue and not pander to politics. New York needs to be progressive and not continually reactive. Property values go down and spending goes up, proving once and for all it’s not assessments but government spending (sorry, Golisano, you are uninformed) that is killing our balance sheets (primary spender: school districts 65 percent of the average total tax bill). The tax cap is a political snow job filled with local overrides to provide the illusion of control over taxes. Reduce them—don’t provide legislation that provides for yearly increases. Frankly, it’s just plain poor economic theory and silly beyond belief. More proof that the Brennan Report is accurate. New York is full of dysfunctional, dimwitted, uneducated illogical politicians whose only qualification for the job is spending more money to get more votes than the other person. AARRGGHH!
—Rob Bick, Bear Springs Development
The cap will only work if the other proposed measures of the commission are also implemented.
We have got to start somewhere to reduce our tax burden, which, as described in the Democrat and Chronicle last week, is 78 percent higher than the national average! New York, with its 1,100 taxing authorities, is completely out of control.
Something has to be done to put a lid on out-of-control school property taxes.
—Peter Bonenfant, Fairport
I actually favor a property tax freeze for five years.
—Lee Drake, Os-cubed, Inc.
In reality, the school tax in New York is out of control. Too many school districts, too many bloated superintendant salaries and too much embezzlement! There should be a 1 percent reduction for the next five years, then five years of zero increase, THEN a 2 percent cap.
—Joe Fabetes, Rochester
With one of the 4 percent tax cap proposals, residents lost their right to vote on school budgets that increased less than 4 percent. While we desperately need a tax cap, any cap should not eliminate the only vote we have that directly affects our property tax bill.
I favor a property tax reduction. If that is not an option, then a cap is in order.
School districts have done an outstanding job showing the community they have no concept of the financial hardships tax payers are experiencing because their salaries go up every year, pensions guarantee retirement income, benefits are second to none and new equipment is constantly bought. In contrast, the people paying the taxes have not seen a salary increase in years (if they have a salary at all because many no longer have jobs), do not have a pension (yes, school district and government employees, most people do NOT have a pension) so they will work more than a decade longer than any school district employee and still not have as much income, and see their benefits cut and cost more every year. It is about time there is some small measure of constraint on the runaway spending and gross waste school districts have "enjoyed" over the last several decades. Putting a cap on their increase will give them a small taste of the reality the community has been experiencing for years. It is about time they learned the lessons of fiscal constraint the community has been living with for years.
—Bill Wyatt, Fairport
I really favor a cap on government spending. Get back to Ben Franklin’s "spend no more then you have."
Current New York State tax policy punishes those who improve their property, and all but forces retirees to either downsize or relocate. It’s as if you don’t actually purchase real estate in New York; you simply purchase the rights to lease from the government, who can change the terms of the lease by an arbitrary amount at any time. A tax cap would be a small step in the right direction.
What’s the downside? Now if only the state legislature would apply this to their own budget.
Employing a tax cap is a very bad idea. Costs will continue to rise. Public entities, such as school districts, will be forced to cut vital services. It is also a regressive form of taxation, falling more heavily on those with lower incomes. A tax circuit breaker plan, which provides a tax limit specific to each taxpayer, will be much more equitable for all while, at the same time addressing tax relief.
The governmental units that are dependent on property taxes have been operating without regard to our ability or willingness to support them and placing a "cap" on the growth of property taxes has some real appeal to property owners. Unfortunately, the perpetrator of this proposal is that smooth-talking candidate Andrew "I’ll promise you anything to get elected" Cuomo and the cap will only drive the state government to "take over" the functions that the local governments won’t be able to fund. This is an irresistible prospect for our offensively liberal and progressive state government. As much as I like the idea of a cap, it is an illusion and the better choice will be to find and elect fiscal conservatives at all levels of government.
—Dave Coriale, Webster
A property tax cut will simply lead to override votes every year or two and given only 20 percent of people vote, taxes will continue to rise. What I would prefer is a law that says that when a school budget is voted down the school district must operate under the previous year’s budget. That would give us a chance to keep school taxes flat.
I support the 2 percent limit because something has to be done to break the mindset in Albany "that to get reelected I have to give more money away" 2 percent is OK, I would prefer it to be 0 percent.
—Hal Gaffin, retired VP and general manager of Kodak’s Graphic Imaging Systems Division
Why are we discussing a property tax cap of 2 percent? We should be talking about instituting substantial property tax reductions by reducing governmental budgets at all levels. Carl Paladino has proposed a state tax decrease of 10 percent. The Erie County Executive Chris Collins has proposed a 20 percent decrease in all County departmental budgets. That’s what I’m talking about!
—John Rynne, president, Rynne, Murphy & Associates, Inc.
A property tax is an easy gimmick that avoids the real issue: The State Legislature is grossly overspending and passing bills that impose unfunded mandates on local governments and school districts. Compare the average budget increases of the state vs. school districts and local governments for the last 10 years. The state’s increases are bigger and on a bigger base. The mandate needs to be on the state to pass budgets with surpluses to control spending and generate revenue to rid us of the debt the Legislature has rolled up. Take a look at the data on the state’s debt added over the last 10 years. A cap on property tax increases focuses on the hole and not the donut. My sister-in-law worked for a local school district. She told me the story of the costs associated with the laws the state imposed regarding having defibrillators available at sporting events. The school had to pay someone to travel with the teams who was trained to use the devices. This law came about when a child died in a school activity in Long Island. The parents claimed their child could have been saved if there had been a defibrillator. The Legislature rushed to mandate that all schools in the state have defibrillators at events. No money was allocated for the equipment or training. How many times since this law have defibrillators saved people at school events?
—Bob Volpe, Highland Development Services
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