Where else does 40.1 percent rule?

There’s a lot of things wrong with a property tax cap.

Lots has been said and written about the great passing rates of school budgets. But if the tax cap bill now proposed makes it into law, two-thirds of those budgets would have failed.

What gets most people is that even if 59.9 percent say they agree with the budget their local school board develops. They can’t get it unless 60 percent say yes.

Turn that around. Only 40 percent have to say no for a budget to fail.

How can that be democracy?

If you haven’t already, call, write, fax your lawmaker. Oppose a damaging tax cap.



  1. Martin Messner May 24, 2011 at 3:18 pm #

    Good article Betsy, I wrote a letter to the editor of our local paper. Here’s some ideas for others to take from because I hope everyone else is doing the same thing….

    Dear Editor,

    I am writing in response to proposed tax caps currently being debated. Whether it is Gov. Cuomo’s or Speaker Silver’s proposal, both take away basic rights of democracy right here in our local communities. It honestly doesn’t matter if you think a tax cap is a good idea or a poor one, if you are a Democrat or a Republican, on the right or on the left. What you need to know is that part of these proposed caps circumvent democracy by requiring a 60% supermajority to override. That may seem like a good idea if you are in the minority of people who voted “no” on this year’s school budgets (93.5% passed statewide).
    The average school budget this year only increased .84% despite massive reductions in state aid. It is the only tax that we, the taxpayers get to vote on. We should trust in democracy. When we give up our basic rights to a democratic majority vote in favor of supermajorities it is only a matter of time before we need a 60% supermajority to do anything in this country. Imagine if the reverse was true, that you needed 60% to vote down a school budget. I would ask any politician looking at it now, what’s next? Will you pass a bill which requires a 60% supermajority to vote you out of office? Perhaps you would prefer it if you can only be re-elected with a 60% supermajority?
    Any attempt to circumvent this process by voting on any bill which requires “super-majorities” is an attack on the basic rights of Americans, local taxpayers and the United States. We should hold politicians accountable for their actions on this bill when they next come up for election.

  2. laura bellinger May 25, 2011 at 3:34 pm #

    Last week an upstate resident announced his candidacy for mayor. He stated that he is for the tax cap “AS A TEACHER”. I can understand being for the tax cap as a politician, but I’m confused about the teacher part. The tax cap proposal, as currently written, will decimate schools. NYS public schools were already cut horribly in this year’s budget (especially upstate). We are being warned that if this tax cap proposal goes forward, next year will be even worse.

    Politicians win by mentioning the tax cap. It is a political football. Both sides win. Candidates who state they’re for it get certain voters; those who state they are against it get another segment of voters. However, people have to see that this is a shell game! The money has to come from somewhere! If towns, villages, cities, schools cannot raise needed funds through taxes, they’re going to look to the legislators to get the money from somewhere. You can be sure the $ will come through higher sales taxes, fees, or something. (In Indiana under a proposed tax cap, the sales tax rate has already been increased, tax relief programs have been eliminated, and there is talk of local and county income taxes going up and local surcharges being implemented.) My local Senator is Hugh Farley. He says we can’t tax the rich because they will leave. (I really don’t see CEOs hurting—read Pigs at the Trough by Arianna Huffington if you want to know about one CEO’s $6000 gold shower curtain. I also doubt the wealthy end up really paying a lot of taxes since the tax code has been rewritten over the years to favor them—read Perfectly Legal by David Cay Johnston.) Well, many middle class residents have already left and NYS stands to lose two congressional seats.

    When we express concern about the cap, Senator Farley says don’t worry, residents will just vote to override. This would take a super majority—60% of the voters. When I see signs around town that state “vote down your school budget”, I don’t have faith that this is going to happen. Furthermore, if some communities vote to override the tax cap and to fully fund their schools, their children get a well rounded, excellent education. In other communities, the people will not override and their children will not receive all the available programs (AP, college courses, kindergarten, electives). Now we’re right back at the CFE case and increasing the gap between poor and wealthy districts. We bailed out Wall Street, but we’re allowing public education to be gutted.

    My assemblyman is George Amedore. He is a homebuilder. He stated that many people from Germany and other places are thinking about moving here to work at the Luther Forest site. They state that they can afford an Amedore home, but once they see the property taxes AND the fact that schools are dropping programs because of this year’s underfunding, they decide to leave their family at home where the children can receive a more full education. I think we can all agree that New Yorkers (again—especially upstate) need tax relief but there needs to be balance.

    Tax cap definition: The governor’s proposal calls for a cap on tax levies of 2 percent or the inflation rate, whichever is lower. If a tax cap such as this passes, schools in NY would lose an estimated $3.3B between 2010-14. Do NOT be fooled by the 2% though. This tax is based on a LEVY. If you think this year’s budget/school funding process has been filled with conflict wait until next year. It will be lose-lose. Schools will be hog tied by the cap and property owners/taxpayers will be upset when they open a tax bill that could still be more than 2%.

    Please remember that this Governor has been disingenuous with numbers. He keeps appearing in the media stating that NYS schools were cut on the average by 2.7%. Schools in this area were all cut by double digits!! Fonda Fultonville schools lost $1.8M which is 14% of its budget and 7% of its entire operating budget. The Governor called for school districts to use their fund balances and cut the waste. (However, he did not issue an executive order compelling districts to do this. Now he acts all shocked that 15,000+ teachers have been let go, plus aides, assistants, custodians, bus drivers, etc.) In the meetings I’ve been in, representatives of the districts explained all the ways they HAVE been fiscally responsible. They saw this economy coming for about the last three years. This school (un)funding formula was broken and punished schools which were fiscally responsible and ones that showed achievement. Marc Butler said it best when he stated that this legislature did nothing brave in this budget process. They lit the fuse then sent it back to the schools to make the tough choices.

    One last thing: this Governor has higher political aspirations. He wants/needs to be seen as a fiscal conservative. Schools are getting caught in the middle of his politics. He wants to look like a tough guy by bringing down those “wasteful” schools. Well, I personally think his name needs to go in the bully box.

    Please go to these websites for more information in regard to schools and the tax cap:

    • NYS PTA (They have a very informative letter to legislators containing many numbers and facts)
    • Indiana’s myth/fact sheet http://www.incap.org/iwf.html
    • NYS School Boards Association website (“While a property tax cap appears to be a popular quick fix to the state’s heavy tax burden, the financial and educational impact of a cap on schools in NY has never been fully assessed—and likely will be devastating.”)
    • Nysut.org (“The research—based on the state’s own figures—clearly shows that the fiscal proposals currently on the table would have a devastating impact on our ability to provide a first-rate education to the children of NY.”)

    Any sort of tax cap needs to arrive simultaneously with unfunded mandate relief, ethics reform, and some sort of equitable, sustainable way to fund public education. Vote your conscience, but if you care about public education, PLEASE educate yourself in regard to the tax cap issue before you vote.


    Laura J. Bellinger
    NYSUT PAC, 44th SD
    Property owner/Taxpayer
    Aunt to MS student

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