Thursday, January 31, 2008

Suozzi Commission Takes On "Stark Challenge"

Commisssion Outlines Agenda; Public Meetings To Follow

The work of the NYS Property Tax Commission has just begun, and already the opposition is lining up with elephant guns to shoot ducks in a barrel.

Just look at the headlines, and you will find more self-interest groups nixing plans that have yet to be put on the table than there have been ideas floated to fix the property tax problem.

The New York State School Boards Association, for instance, has said that the property tax cap, as proposed by Commission Chair Tom Suozzi and now supported by Governor Spitzer, would "harm schools."

The teachers' union, New York State United Teachers (NYSUT), a powerful special interest in Albany, has been described as "leary" of efforts to impose a cap.

Even county executives and local politicos have expressed concern, if not doubt, that a tax cap is the way to stifle what has become the exponential growth of the school property tax, and are said to be "cool" on the Commission's efforts.

So where does that leave us, other than with property taxes continuing to spiral out of control?

How do we stem the tide of tax and spend, without jeopardizing our children's education?

Where do we cut? Who will get less? How can we effectively consolidate services to eliminate costs?

Are caps effective means of controlling spending, and therefore, limiting the annual increase in the property tax, or are they merely stop-gap measures (or less than that, for the property tax will still be heading upward, year after year, not decreasing), that, as a study conducted by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities concluded, are "likely to impair local governments’ ability to provide education, public safety, and other services residents demand and need," and "likely to make the local revenue system more regressive?"

Would shifting the burden of school spending from a regressive property tax to a progressive income tax (either a local income tax, or as part and parcel of the State income tax) be more palatable, if not palliative?

Are we simply looking to treat the symptoms, or will we be working toward a cure?

Surely, the Suozzi Commission will be asking all of these questions and more, considering options and, hopefully, offering practical, doable, and legislatively acceptable solutions.

The Commisiion will call for public comment, and for the ideas and suggestions of those who actually foot the bill -- New York's property tax payers; predominantly homeowners who bear the burden, and now, must share the responsibility in getting New York out of this awful mess.

So, what's your opinion? How best can we, as New Yorkers, not only keep the school property tax in check, but lower (or, dare we say, eliminate) the school property tax, while, at the same time, maintaining schools of excellence and a system of education that prepares every child to meet the challenges of our 21st century?

A stark challenge, indeed.

Have ideas, thoughts, a property tax plan of your own? Write us at
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Suozzi: Tax panel faces "stark challenge"


The state commission formed to curb property taxes faces "a stark challenge," and will hold five meetings in the coming months to address the issue, the panel chairman said yesterday.

The chairman, Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi, made his remarks during a 75-minute organizational meeting of the New York State Property Tax Commission at the governor's offices in Manhattan.

A briefing book distributed to the commission members outlined the scope of the problem, and set broad goals: create a package of reforms for legislative approval, identify the best taxing practices for school district, and "design an intelligent cap" on property taxes.

The book cited Tax Foundation documents that identified 2000 as the "turning point," when property taxes nationwide began to increase faster than personal income.

From 1992 to 2000, personal income rose 5.7 percent annually while property taxes grew 4.2 percent; from 2000 to 2004, personal income rose 3.7 percent while property taxes rose 6.2 percent, the briefing book said.

At the state level, property taxes have risen faster than the national average for the past decade, the book said, while personal income grew about five percent statewide, but at a lesser rate downstate."This is the stark challenge the commission faces - to address accelerating growth rates or property taxes in the face of personal income growth...," the briefing book released by Suozzi said.

Suozzi said the commission would hold an additional five meetings -- on Feb. 12, March 5 and 26 and April 10 and 23 -- to take testimony from citizens and citizen groups. He said the panel would submit preliminary recommendations on May 15 and a final report by Dec. 1.

Gov. Eliot Spitzer appointed Suozzi on Jan. 9 to chair the commission, and formally signed the executive order creating the commission on Jan. 23.

Other members of the commission include Shirley Strum Kenny, president of Stony Brook University; labor lawyer and political insider Basil Paterson, father of the lieutenant governor, and former Onondaga County Executive Nicholas Pirro.Newsday Reporter William Murphy contributed to this story.

Copyright © 2008, Newsday Inc.

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