Recently, a proposal aimed at relieving the pressure of “property tax fatigue” on local school districts and taxpayers was passed by members of the Senate. While recognition of the need for such a plan seems long overdue, any proposal that can offer real and sustainable property tax relief is a step in the right direction.

The proposal offers some sound ideas to lessen the property tax burden by enabling school districts to enter into shared service contracts with greater flexibility thus allowing  BOCES to review opportunities for regional cost-containment; establishes a unified data collection system; and prohibits any new mandates, once school budgets are passed. These could prove to be important steps in allowing schools to become more innovative and less dependent upon the dysfunction of the current mode of operation in Albany.

But while these ideas are practical and can begin to bring about the relief taxpayers need, my concern is that they do not go far enough.

When personnel costs account for seventy percent of schools’ budgets, how can we continue to ignore the source of the problem?  These costs are protected by mandates unique to New York; the Taylor Law and the Triborough Amendment. As long as these are on the table, taxpayers are guaranteed that personnel costs will continue to increase and that those costs will continue to be passed on to them.  

As Unshackle Upstate referenced in “New York’s Double Standard,” our school districts exceed the national average for employer health contributions and we lead the nation in per capita contributions to retirement costs.  As stated in their report, if schools and local governments simply matched the national average for health care contributions, the projected savings would be measured in the hundreds of millions of dollars each year.   Mandate relief must include vital reforms to all of the costs associated with high property taxes.

Since its inception, Unshackle Upstate has demanded essentially nothing more than that our leaders make decisions that make sense. It is really quite simple. The Unshackle Army has been sounding off on the need to fix a problem at its source or face the continuing exodus out of New York.

It is obvious that the chronic property tax fatigue has taken its toll. People that have lived and worked in New York for their entire life are choosing to leave and young people have no incentive to stay. It is time to stop being unwanted guests in our own state.