By DYLAN ROSENTHAL
New York is notorious for its high cost of living and insanely high taxes. As time goes on, the population of New York continues to drop as older New Yorkers flock to states where the cost of living is significantly lower. In an effort to slow down the decline in population, New York State legislators have instituted a Property Tax Cap.
What the tax cap states is that local governments and school districts can raise taxes no more than two percent or the rate of inflation; whichever one is lower. This cap limits the amount of tax increases and makes them more maintainable for the residents of the communities. Prior to this, local governments and school districts were not as regulated with tax increases which could be one of the primary causes for such high taxes.
While a tax cap does exist, it is possible for it to be overridden; voters in the school district have the right to vote on whether or not the budget could be raised higher than the cap. If sixty percent of the voters or more support a higher increase, the school district then has the right to raise taxes above the cap.
While a tax cap may be extremely appealing to New Yorkers who are paying more and more each year in taxes, the tax cap does not come without it’s flaws. While taxes are increasing at a much lower rate, this requires the state government to increase aid to school districts across the country as their budgets increase remain near-zero. The problem with this scenario is that the schools are receiving aid from the state with taxpayer’s money, or having to provide increasingly more expensive services with the same amount of money.
The reason that New York State would need to increase its aid given to school districts is because the tax cap is so low; the two percent cap makes the maximum increases per year in some cases miniscule, not making much of a difference. While it will stop the rapid increase of taxes throughout the state, it sure is not solving all of our states issues with its rapid spending.
Here in Oceanside, administrators concluded that an increase in the district budget for the 2016 to 2017 school year would be within the tax cap. “Thankfully we experienced expense reductions, cost savings and increased revenues which enabled the district to develop a fiscally sound budget in line with the tax cap of 0.43%” said Mr. Chris Van Cott, Assistant Superintendent of Business here in the Oceanside School district. While the tax cap may not be solving funding problems within school districts, it is forcing school districts to be more fiscally conservative which taxpayers in the end will appreciate.
Not everyone is happy with the tax cap, however. In some cases communities have sought to raise increases above the cap and teacher unions are challenging the tax cap, with protests and attempts to get into a legal battle in the state court. These protesters site other states that have instituted tax caps, such as California, which at one point had one of the best public school systems in the country, but was hurt by the cap which then gave rise to many charter schools in the state. New York is known to have some of the best unions, so it would be ultimately surprising if teachers standing together against the tax cap did not get this new legislation a second look.