Nearly half of the 669 school districts seeking voter approval for budgets on Tuesday, May 16 are presenting spending plans that call for increasing property taxes as high as the 2011 property tax cap law allows, according to an analysis released today by the Empire Center for Public Policy.
Since the cap began, a number of bills have been introduced with the aim of easing or breaking the cap — but none have gained traction. This year, there are at least 17 such measures.
"Most have come up before," said Tim Hoefer, executive director of the Empire Center. The fiscally conservative government watchdog group supports keeping the current cap as is, saying it has helped get a handle on New York's highest-in-the-nation property taxes and school costs.
"This is nothing but good news for taxpayers. The cap is based on the sensible notion that the price of government shouldn't rise any faster than prices in general," E.J. McMahon, president of the Empire Center said in an email.
After another year of low inflation, most local governments will again base their tax caps on a growth factor of less than one percent.
The school-budget votes this year included more property-tax-cap overrides and a drop in voter turnout, a report from a school group showed.
With just three work days remaining in the legislative session, a number of bills that would loosen the property-tax cap await consideration in both houses. The pending legislative efforts range from small modifications to the cap formula to allow more spending without triggering the cap’s supermajority requirement, to doing away with the supermajority requirement altogether.
Twenty-nine of the 37 districts that sought to override the property tax cap were successful in yesterday’s school budget votes, as the majority of districts elected to limit their tax increases to the cap itself.
“STAR was the first in a line of many gimmicks to address high property taxes without addressing the reasons for the high property taxes,” said Ken Girardin, spokesman for the Empire Center for Public Policy, a fiscally conservative think tank in Albany. “The (tax relief) checks are a calculated effort to distract from the hard choices the state Legislature won’t make.”