Tuesday, November 15, 2005
Suozzi Launches School Tax Reduction Campaign
School Board Presidents, Legislators, Comptroller Join in Unprecedented Coordinated Effort to Reduce School Property Taxes
Mineola, NY - On the heels of his overwhelming reelection as Nassau County Executive, Tom Suozzi joined County Legislators and school board presidents from across the county to launch a campaign to help reduce school taxes, which make up the largest portion of property tax bills in Nassau County.
"The most important issue on Long Island right now is the high property taxes we pay in Nassau County, much of which comes from school taxes," Suozzi said. "We have to start building a consensus that this is the number one problem we face on Long Island and we have to find a solution."
Residents throughout the county have identified high school taxes as a key issue, Suozzi said, and businesses also say the taxes are a reason why more companies are not locating here. While the county has no control over school taxes, Suozzi said he felt a moral obligation to take on the fight to reduce them because the issue is so important to the future of Long Island. Several leading school district officials asked Suozzi to become involved in finding a solution to the crushing burden of high school taxes.
"But this won't be solved overnight, and the answer will not come this week or in the next couple of months," Suozzi said. "This is a long term problem that needs real solutions, not a quick fix."
Suozzi pointed to an imbalance in state aid as a major contributor to the problem of ever escalating school taxes in Nassau County. "We only get 17 percent of our school funding from the state when the state average is 37 percent," he said.
The County Executive said he has invited representatives from the 56 school districts in Nassau County to discuss possible solutions to the school tax problem during a meeting in early December. He and his staff have been meeting informally on the issue with a smaller group of school board leaders since the early fall.
County Comptroller Howard Weitzman, who appeared with Suozzi at the news conference, said high property values in Nassau County also contribute to the school tax problem on Long Island. "Our research on this issue has shown that the state depends too much on property values when it calculates state aid formulas," he said. "Everyone knows our property values are high, but what people may not realize is that more than half of Nassau residents can't afford to buy their own houses based on their incomes. So we're paying high taxes, based on low school aid, because of how much our houses are worth. This system needs to be changed. A lot of people are house rich, but income poor."
The half a dozen school board leaders who joined Suozzi to launch the campaign praised his willingness to take on a leadership role on the sensitive issue. "This is only the beginning of our efforts, and we look forward to working with all of the county's school districts and seeking solutions to this very pressing issue," said Tom Murphy, President of the North Shore School District Board of Education.
The December meeting with school board leaders is being called to develop an agenda for the school tax reduction effort. Potential solutions to the tax problem may include the possible consolidation of certain business functions among school districts, Suozzi said. He also did not rule out the possibility of legal action in order to secure Nassau County's fair share of school aid from the state.
Other school board officials joining the County Executive for the announcement included: Amy Beyers, Vice President from the North Shore School District; Cindy Cardinal and Aline Khatchadourian, president and vice president of the Manhasset School District; Richard Tortorici and Janet Bakes Wilk, president and past president of the Glen Cove School District; Ron Walsh, president of the Locust Valley School District; and Roy Lester, president of the Long Beach City School District.
Suozzi urged school district leaders to come together to find a solution for the good of the county.
"I believe that I'm in a position, and we're all in a position, to organize and bring together these 56 different entities that need to be brought together, right now, on this issue because we're all getting beat up, school district by school district, community by community," he said.
- - -
Is your local School Board "on board" the campaign train to reduce School Property Taxes? If not, why not?
Contact the members of your community's Board of Education -- call, e-mail, send a letter, or, better yet, attend a Board meeting -- and tell them to get on board, or get out of the way!
How about your State Senator and Assemblymember? Have they joined the fight? If not, why not?
Contact your State Legislators and tell them you want real School Property Tax reform now!
Ask your local civic association and community groups, are they on board? If not, why not?
This is no time for sitting on the sidelines, the potted plants of "Main Street." We've done too much sitting around over the years as Special Districts from Fire to Sanitation to Water run amuck, as we play footsie with politicos who pat us on the backs with one hand, while their fiefdoms pick our pockets with the other.
And your neighbors -- have they signed on to lower School Property Taxes? Do they even realize that the battle rages so close to home?
E-mail this Blog (SEE link below) to your friends, colleagues and fellow Long Islanders. The more who know, the greater our chances of victory!
Now some may view Tom Suozzi's activism on this front as a purely political ploy. It may very well be. For the moment, however, this is the only train in the station on track for real Property Tax reform.
Friend or foe of the County Executive, there is no denying that the oppressive and regressive Property Tax -- and, in particular, the School Property Tax, which accounts for more than 60% of our Property Tax tab -- is strangling us here on Long Island, and there is neither politics nor ploy in saying that Property Tax is the enemy. The enemy of your enemy is your friend!
Yes, that train is about to leave the station, folks. "Get on board, or get out of the way!"