Why the Property Tax Cap Doesn’t Go Far Enough

Contact: Dr. Joseph J. Marinelli, District Superintendent

Wayne-Finger Lakes BOCES * 315-332-7292

Why the Property Tax Cap Doesn’t Go Far Enough

Dear Editor:

If the property tax cap proposals, as introduced by the Governor, passed by the Senate, and supported by gubernatorial candidates seem too good to be true for the highest taxed state in the nation, it probably is. The property tax cap alone is a political solution and is not the real solution to our economic plight. To realize true reform, we believe the lawmakers must go even further.
As school superintendents, we are charged with the great responsibility of educating children as an investment in our
collective futures. Overseeing a school district is no small task, and it has been made extremely difficult by the myriad of laws that have
come down from Albany without much positive impact on children. We are in favor of property tax reform, but we firmly believe it must be combined with additional reforms to be truly effective.

Generally, budgets consist of two equally important parts, revenue and expenses. Albany’s current proposal only addresses the revenue side of the balance sheet and completely ignores the expense side.

Our schools are facing daunting financial issues on both sides of their budgets. The challenges have become so great that the delivery of quality educational programs has been jeopardized. Property tax cap proposals do not go far enough because they don’t address two major, out-of-control, mandated expense categories including employee pension expenses and health insurance costs.

Below are the facts and our recommendations:

Fact 1 – Teacher retirement system payments have increased by 1,693 percent over the past eight years, or 211 percent per year on average (www.statewideonline.org). Lawmakers will state that they approved a new Tier 5 Pension Plan to control pension costs, but the
reality is, it will take 20 years before schools will benefit. In addition, our schools received a 45 percent increase in costs in
2010-11 after the Tier 5 Bill was passed.

Recommendation – We propose that a law be passed that immediately caps employer contributions for retirement system
(pension) payments.

Fact 2 – Over the past eight years, health insurance costs for our schools have gone up 122 percent or more than 15 percent per year on average.

Recommendation – We propose that a law be passed to cap a public employer’s contribution to health insurance for each
employee at a set dollar amount.

Schools need Albany to control skyrocketing mandated expenses that are currently out of their control. True property tax reform must address both sides of the equation not just the revenue side. Our communities and our school districts cannot endure another politically motivated, faulty law pushed through Albany. We believe that a property tax cap can only be effective if it is combined with caps on employer pension costs and health insurance contributions.

The Wayne-Finger Lakes Superintendents’ Association