March 24, 2011

Bad tax cap would cost schools billions

Author: Bernie Mulligan
Source: NYSUT United

The devastating budget proposal to strip state support from schools would be made even worse if a bad tax cap plan is also implemented. How bad? Schools outside of the "Big 5" would see a $2.5 billion funding gap.

"While NYSUT shares New Yorkers' concerns about the tax burden placed on the middle class, we also know that New Yorkers overwhelmingly support their public schools and do not favor the draconian cuts in programs and services that would result from an irresponsible tax cap and that would hurt kids," NYSUT President Dick Iannuzzi said.

NYSUT released the updated fiscal picture at a March state Assembly hearing on tax caps. The $2.5 billion funding gap assumes the executive budget's proposed $1.5 billion cut is not restored and calculates the impact if the governor's tax cap program bill that recently passed the state Senate were in effect in 2011-12.

"New York state would spend $1,500 less on each public school student next year," NYSUT Executive Vice President Andy Pallotta testified.

"Education cuts like this will mean the loss of vital programs, larger class sizes and significant job losses in just about every school district in New York state. It's unwise and unacceptable."

The plan proposed by Governor Cuomo and passed by the Senate includes a zero percent tax cap. Under the bill, school budget votes would be eliminated and replaced with a tax levy proposition. Contingency budgets also would be eliminated and schools would instead go to an automatic zero if the proposition is voted down.

Up to 15,000 education jobs could be lost this year alone, estimates show.

"This is on top of the loss of 10,000 education jobs as a result of last year's budget cuts," Pallotta said.

NYSUT supports a circuit breaker, which ties property taxes to an individual's ability to pay, as the best mechanism to provide property tax relief to those who need it the most.