NYSUT gets the word out on 'circuit breaker' approach to property tax relief
NYSUT today launched a new advertising campaign exposing the major flaws of a proposed property tax cap and calling on state leaders to instead pass "circuit breaker" legislation to provide real tax relief to strapped homeowners.
The two-week television and radio campaign will initially air in the Capital Region and on Long Island. It may be expanded statewide – with much heavier air play – in the weeks to come, depending on developments at the state Capitol, NYSUT leaders said.
Tax cap? Surveys reveal New Yorkers prefer a circuit-breaker for property tax relief
In two recent polls, a majority of New Yorkers voiced support for a circuit-breaker approach to tax relief as an alternative to the proposed tax cap.
A circuit-breaker prevents property taxes from "overloading" a household's budget by setting limits based on income - unlike the arbitrary, one-size-fits-all approach of a tax cap.
"New Yorkers, including the 600,000 members of NYSUT, want and deserve real property tax relief," said NYSUT President Richard C. Iannuzzi. "A circuit-breaker would do just that, limiting the amount that senior citizens and working families would pay as a percentage of their household income without destroying school programs."
NYSUT Executive Vice President Alan B. Lubin said the union was cheered by Monday's findings in a new Siena College Research Institute poll that showed, when asked to choose between the two proposals, New Yorkers favor the "circuit-breaker" approach over an arbitrary property tax cap.
"New Yorkers are pretty smart. It's no surprise they see the proposed tax cap for what it is - an election-year gimmick that would do nothing to lower their property taxes," Lubin said. "A tax cap would only slow the growth of property tax increases in parts of the state, while a circuit breaker would provide real tax relief - in the form of rebates - to New Yorkers who need it most, based on their ability to pay."
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Broad-based coalition opposes arbitrary tax caps
A broad-based coalition representing more than one million New Yorkers today criticized legislation that would allow Albany - under a proposed property tax cap - to take away the voice of voters; impose artificial limits on local school spending; and abandon its promise to ensure equity in the education funding formula.
The coalition acknowledged the need for property tax relief, but said an artificial cap - like the one endorsed by Gov. David Paterson - would harm education programs while dooming efforts to close the achievement gap. It said similar caps have failed in Massachusetts and other states because they do not address rising costs beyond the control of school districts, inevitably leading to cuts to education programs that serve children and other public services.
The coalition is led by New Yorkers for Fiscal Fairness and the Educational Conference Board and includes such groups as the New York State Parent Teachers Association; the Working Families Party; Fiscal Policy Institute; New York State Council of Superintendents; New York State School Boards Association; New York State United Teachers; Civil Service Employees Association; Citizens Action of NY; TREND; Center on Budget and Policy Priorities; New York Association of School Business Officials; School Administrators Association of New York State; Campaign for Fiscal Equity and the Alliance for Quality Education.
UPDATE: June 2
NYSUT calls tax cap proposal the 'wrong approach' to relieving tax burden
New York State United Teachers, while acknowledging the need for property tax relief, today said a tax cap would harm public education and "is the wrong approach to alleviating the unfair burden placed on some homeowners."
"We are committed to finding a fair way of relieving the property tax burden," said NYSUT President Richard C. Iannuzzi. "But an arbitrary cap that fails to take into consideration rising costs beyond the control of school districts is a blunt instrument that would damage education and efforts to create equity for all children. We know full well that poorer districts would never be able to muster the votes to spend more than a cap, only widening the achievement gap for children of color and for children who live in poverty."
NYSUT Executive Vice President Alan Lubin noted that New York already grants local communities the right to decide property taxes through school budget voting. On May 20, voters approved nearly 93 percent of school budgets around the state. "And 297 districts approved budgets higher than what Albany would allow if it instituted a cap," Lubin said. "An arbitrary tax cap erodes local control over school budgets and ignores the reality that New Yorkers support education as an essential investment in children and as a magnet for jobs and economic growth."
Lubin said that, while cost-savings proposals must always be considered seriously, "some of the commission's other recommendations are an attempt to resuscitate every bad idea ever floated - and already rejected - in Albany."
About the Property Tax Cap
Education Week recently announced that New York state leads the nation in education standards, quality tests and accountability. The national experts at Education Trust cited New York's progress in closing the gap for children in poverty. New York leads the nation in the prestigious Intel science competition. We lead the nation in AP and SAT participation. Test scores are rising, students are working to higher standards than ever before and voters last spring approved 95 percent of school budgets - the highest rate in state history.
Why would we jeopardize this progress with arbitrary tax caps?
Research shows they erode local control, dismantle strong district programs and penalize the poorest communities.
New York's students are learning - don't cap their futures.
About the 'Right Kind of Cap' Campaign
In January 2008, NYSUT launched a communications campaign portraying students in mortarboards, with the message, "The right kind of cap." The campaign message is two-fold: first, to highlight the progress students are making and the importance of education as the engine to New York's economy, and to share concerns about the dangers of an arbitrary cap on school taxes. The campaign includes information on the impact of tax cap plans in other states; and ways to reduce local property tax burdens without removing local control or jeopardizing the progress students are making in working to higher standards.