Thursday, April 06, 2006

STARs In Their Eyes

The Empire Center For New York State Policy Echoes Sentiments Of The Community Alliance

Sprinkling more STAR-Dust on School Taxes

Governor Pataki and legislative Republicans are pushing for a major expansion of the STAR (School Tax Relief) program in response to growing concern about skyrocketing school property taxes.

But as explained in this new NYFiscalWatch Memo by the Empire Center's E.J. McMahon, more STAR will only dull the pain of high school taxes without addressing the cause of the problem--runaway school budgets. If anything, it will make matters worse.

From the NYFiscalWatch Memo:
By effectively lowering the marginal cost of education to homeowners, STAR created a new incentive for homeowners to support larger spending increases, and for districts to raise taxes by larger amounts than their voters would otherwise have accepted.

STAR did little to boost student performance but led to significant increases in spending and taxes, education researchers at Syracuse University have found. Tax increases were "strikingly high" in upstate small districts and cities, where STAR generated the largest percentage tax savings for homeowners, they said.

And the bottom line:
STAR has not been a cure for high property taxes. At best, it has functioned like a dose of fiscal novocaine whose effects have now worn off. Increasing the dosage will only aggravate the source of the pain--heavy school spending.

New York's overall tax burden will never become more competitive unless something is done to reduce the rate of spending growth, especially in the well-funded public schools sector. In the meantime, Governor Pataki and the Legislature seem content to continue wishing upon STAR.

Copyright 2006 The Empire Center For New York State Policy
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Reaching For The Stars, Giving Us The Moon

Aside from their unholy reliance on the STAR program, the State Legislature's response this session to skyrocketing school property taxes has been to throw money at the symptom rather than to attempt a cure of the underlying disease.

Come October, just one month before an election when every seat in the Senate an Assembly is up for grabs, taxpayers will receive "rebate" checks from Albany. The checks will range from $300 to $800. [The average anticipated rebate for Nassau County residents will be $304 for 2006-07 under basic STAR.]

This greasing of the electoral palm (while continuing to pick taxpayers' pockets to finance our schools) may well buy a few votes for the incumbents, but it does absolutely nothing to address the very real problem of a runaway property tax.

In essence, the Legislature is telling New York's taxpayers, "Wait until next year!" Unfortunately, few among us can afford too...

Click HERE to read The Community Alliance post, STAR Gazing In Albany

Click HERE for Newsday article, Budget Standoff Expected To Cancel Rebate Checks

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