ALBANY, N.Y. June 6, 2014 - New York State United Teachers has filed a motion seeking to amend its 2013 legal challenge to the property tax cap to include a challenge to the recently enacted property tax freeze. The motion argues that the two laws, which operate in unison, deprive taxpayers of their constitutional right to determine local school funding levels, and that the challenge to both laws should be decided together.
NYSUT's motion is now before state Supreme Court Justice Patrick McGrath. If the judge agrees, NYSUT's case against both the tax cap and tax freeze credit program will be combined and heard at a later date.
NYSUT's motion reads, in part: "The tax freeze, in essence, financially incentivizes school districts and voters to stay within the cap. It also effectively punishes districts, voters, taxpayers and school children in districts where school boards and voters exercise their constitutionally protected right to exceed the cap, by denying tax credits to otherwise eligible taxpayers in such districts. This is done without regard to the current funding effort of the district or the current educational achievement or needs of the district's school children."
NYSUT President Karen E. Magee said it is clear the tax freeze credit program and tax cap are intertwined. Both, she said, violate the state constitution.
"Public schools are still reeling from budget cuts. The tax freeze program is a gimmick that dangles a check in front of taxpayers as a carrot to go along with the cap's stick," Magee said. "Both the so-called property tax freeze and tax cap undermine local control and only worsen the already devastating funding gap between low and high wealth school districts."
NYSUT Executive Vice President Andrew Pallotta said the property tax freeze credit only deepens the pain caused to students and their schools by the tax cap. "It further coerces school districts into abiding by an undemocratic and unconstitutional tax cap that is harming public education and denying students the programs and services they need," he said.
New York State United Teachers is a statewide union with more than 600,000 members in education, human services and health care. NYSUT is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association and the AFL-CIO.