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Saturday, August 30, 2014
State must fix tax cap’s glitches
(Page 2 of 2)

Many see it as a tool of last resort to force school districts and municipalities (which are also subject to the cap) to reverse their thinking process: instead of deciding what’s needed and telling taxpayers what they must pay, the new idea is to start with a “small” increase in what taxpayers paid the year before and telling districts to spend only what the taxpayers can afford.

The law clearly has unintended negative consequences, and it needs to be fixed. We want school officials to continue to be prudent in their budgeting, and to keep tax increases as low as possible. But their hands shouldn’t be tied, either, by technicalities that can spell doom for even a well-thought-out budget.

Right now, high school officials are considering a budget with a tax levy increase below 1 percent. To require a supermajority of voters to pass it isn’t in keeping with the spirit of the law, which is supposed to encourage responsible budgeting.

The district has been making budget cuts for several years. It is at the point where the cuts are starting to hurt, and any further reductions will start to have a negative effect on education. State aid simply doesn’t keep up with the costs of the mandates the state hands down.

We call on Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages, Assemblyman Brian Curran and State Sen. Dean Skelos, who all represent parts of the Central High School District in Albany, to look into reforming the tax-cap law so these technicalities are corrected. In additional to holding districts to a maximum tax increase, perhaps there should be a provision that at least gives school districts a bottom number.

This isn’t the first time the tax cap has caused issues with a Valley Stream budget. In 2012, a voter-sponsored bus referendum required District 13 to get at least 60 percent of the public vote to pass its tax-cap-compliant budget even if the referendum was rejected, which it was.

Our local state lawmakers need to examine these flaws in the law and make the necessary corrections. We hope our local school officials will urge them to, as well.

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