Residents of the small Western New York village of Sloan had the highest effective property tax rate in New York, paying $64.46 per $1,000 of home value during 2014, according to the newest edition of Benchmarking NY, the Empire Center’s annual examination of local property taxes.
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.”
Fueled by an increase in state aid and higher property taxes, the 669 school districts subject to New York’s property tax levy cap plan to spend 2.8 percent more per student in 2016-17 than they did this year, according to an analysis released today by the Empire Center for Public Policy. Per-pupil tax levies, meanwhile, would increase by an average of 1.3 percent.
The change from a credit to a rebate check is more aimed at helping the state's ledger to pay for new spending in the state budget, such as a $1 billion income-tax cut, said E.J. McMahon, president of the Empire Center, an Albany-based conservative think tank.
"Every year, it’s actually going to steadily erode the apparent cost of STAR because every year, as houses change hands, more and more of STAR will shift from the spending side to the revenue side of the budget," he said.
State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has officially confirmed what federal inflation statistics were already telegraphing: New York's statutory cap on local school property tax levies will be just a hair above zero for 2016-17 school year budgets, which will be submitted for voter approval in May.
Budget deficits papered over with borrowed money and fiscal gimmicks. Unaffordable union contracts. Pension contributions “amortized” into the future. Retiree health benefits promised but unfunded. Corruption probes and whiffs of scandal. Accountability blurred, responsibility shirked, and hard decisions avoided again and again.
That litany could describe any number of old, declining American cities—including a few that, like Detroit, actually went broke. But the same dysfunction exists in affluent corners of New York’s archetypal suburb: Long Island
All the checks dilute the intent of trying to lower people’s tax bills, said E.J. McMahon, president of the Empire Center, a fiscally conservative think tank in Albany.