Gov. Andrew Cuomo knows the property tax burden in New York—especially the upstate region—is among the heaviest in the nation. And he thinks he knows what to do about it.
The governor this week rolled out a proposal to require county officials to design plans to achieve “real, recurring property tax savings” by getting rid of duplicative services. Noting that the property tax is “the most burdensome tax to homeowners and business owners,” Mr. Cuomo said his proposal would empower communities to streamline government bureaucracy.
Here’s how it would work:
The top executive in each county would need to draft a plan that demonstrates “real, recurring savings in costs and not simply shift burdens to other taxpayers,” the governor’s office said. The proposed efficiencies must be new actions.
The deadline for submitting the draft plan to county lawmakers would be Aug. 1. After a 45-day review period, the plan would be put on the November general election ballot.
If a majority of voters reject the plan, the county government would go back to the drawing board to work on a new plan for approval in November 2018.
Further details of Mr. Cuomo’s proposal, which would need legislative approval, are still to come. But the broad outline alone prompted swift reaction from some local government officials and others. Why, they asked, focus only on duplicative services when state mandates by far are the biggest cost driver?
And if the goal truly is to reduce property taxes, why leave school districts out of the proposal? For most New Yorkers, school taxes are the biggest single levy they pay each year.
These are very good and appropriate questions. They deserve answers.
Inefficiency in local government operations no doubt is a factor, but it’s hardly the only one. The state’s role should be on the table too.
This probably is not what the governor intended, but if it happens, we’ll give him due credit.
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