Wednesday, September 16, 2009

No "New" Property Taxes For Nassau

Yes, But What About The "Old" Ones?

Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi makes that "read my lips" promise of no new taxes. Terrific. As if Nassau's taxpayers, pockets already picked clear down to the lint (why, they've even taken the lint), could bear yet another tax, fee, or surcharge.

The fodder of the campaign trail notwithstanding, truth be told, County taxes account for only 18%, give or take a percentage point, of the total property tax bill, Town taxes (including special districts), 20%, Library, 6%, and -- guess what -- school taxes, a whopping 56%.

Yes, your school property taxes account for more than half -- in some districts, well over 60% -- of the property tax bill.

That's an outrage, and a blatant affront to Nassau County's homeowners, who bear the brunt of government's malaise in making over a system of school financing that is, to say the least, fundamentally flawed.

Holding the line on County property taxes is great. We'd expect, and should demand, no less, particularly in this economy.

But when will lawmakers -- from the County Seat to Albany -- take up the cause, with more than mere rhetoric, of school finance reform?

When will folks in the State Legislature pay more than lip service to a problem that threatens to bankrupt the middle class, living up the the mandate of New York's Constitution to "provide for the maintenance and support of a free common schools, wherein all the children of this state may be educated"?

Why does New York continue to pour millions of tax dollars into private and parochial schools -- far beyond money for transportation -- when that same NYS Constitution specifically prohibits such public funding? ["Neither the state nor any subdivision of there shall use its property or credit or any public money, or authorize or permit either to be used, directly or indirectly, in aid or maintenance, other than for examination or inspection, of any school or institution of learning wholly or in part under control or direction of any religious denomination, or in which any denomination tenet or doctrine is taught but The legislature may provide for the transportation of children to and from any school or institution of learning."]

When will the archaic State School Aid formulae, which favors upstate districts, while penny-pinching Long Island, be repealed, this in favor of full public funding of our public schools?

And when will our elected officials (as in, "why do we keep electing them?") finally eliminate the onerous and regressive property tax in favor of more fair, equitable, and progressive means of utilizing tax dollars to pay for public education?

Face it. Freezing (slashing would suit us better) County taxes, Town taxes, even those pesky Special District taxes is a good beginning, but frankly, it won't even make an appreciable dent in that humongous property tax bill.

Unless and until we -- through the common sense austerity of our local school boards, and the mandate of the State -- bring school spending under control, consolidating services, trimming costs, lowering (not capping) tax rates, our property tax bills will continue to hover at, or above, the unaffordable.

Our government has no problem taxing its citizens, or, for that matter, spending our money. The time has come (in fact, its long overdue), for that government to tax less, and spend more wisely.

New Yorkers, including Nassau County homeowners, should insist that school finance reform top the political agenda.

1 comment:

  1. We wouldn't have to look far for solutions. Our neighbors to the west (New York City) are light years ahead of us.

    Long Island school districts have clinged to this notion that the huge expense is justified because they offer a better education. The reality is our school districts are mediocre. Under the leadership of Mayor Bloomberg, the City has improved its schools considerably and will shortly challenge if not eclipse the performance levels at our Long Island schools.

    What will Long Island school districts do when the City offers a comparable alternative at 1/2 the price??