Stabilization of Property Taxes

Long Island is one of the more wealthier areas in the United States, however due to unreachable housing prices and property taxes more and more residents are finding it hard to sustain a strong quality of life here or for a young family to start one. According to the Long Index, 84 percent of residents consider taxes a very or extremely serious problem.

For most areas your property taxes go into multiple buckets. The largest bucket is your school taxes. Over sixty percent of your tax bill goes to the local district. The next largest bucket is either your County or Town taxes. Depending on where you live fifteen to twenty percent goes to the Town or County. If you live in an incorporated village your tax dollars will shift from the town. Lastly much of your tax dollars goes to special districts. Library, Lighting, and Water Districts are examples of the special districts that exist on Long Island. Nearly, 7,000 taxing jurisdictions exist in New York State. On Long Island we have over thousand. Most would ask the question why do we have so many taxing jurisdictions? The simple answer is there is a perception that if each community has its own water or library district it would dictate better services. That may be the case but now its come to a question of affordability and as we look to cut cost we have to more with less and eventually less with less. Before we raise the taxes in any municipality we should ensure we are doing all we can to cut cost. Furthermore the tax dollars we do not cut should work for our residents. There is no reason in one of the highest taxing jurisdictions that quality of life should compromised.

In order to reform our property tax system we have to change the way we think. Every level of government can’t do everything. The villages, towns, and counties can’t all be responsible for roads or parks or every service which we provide to our residents. This is the time to allocate the provider of services by jurisdiction; therefore creating maximization of shared consolidated costs. Any one particular municipality can’t provide all of the services their residents need especially when there may be a small quantity of them that used the service. Consolidation reform starts with accepting we can streamline government to be more efficient and if do right services will not hampered.

The next big change we need to stabilize property taxes is to address State school aid. Local school districts receive most of their funding from to sources, the state and property tax owner. The problem with this concept is two fold:

One, State aid has been dwindling or not keeping pace with the rising costs of running a school district. Long Island in whole has seen its State decrease for the most part over the last 10 years, therefore forcing local school districts to raise property taxes or reduce staff. Many districts can not opt for the latter because staffing reductions due to State unfunded mandates require the teacher to staff ratio must remain at a level adequate to perform a quality education for our young people.

Two, the State aid formula is based on the property wealth and not one’s ability to pay the property taxes. Many of us have seen our property’s worth grow by leaps and bounds but has our income grown at the same rate? Probably not. However the State aid formula allocates the financial resources based on property wealth, which is flawed system and has forced many residents to sell or lose their homes.

Every year voter turnout throughout Long Island is growing in school board elections. More and more residents are focusing their frustrations on property taxes as a whole squarely on school budget votes. This frustration will increase unless we change the system. First we need to demand a greater share of State aid for the Long Island community. In essence we are requesting the system change to be more elastic so it reflects the income viability of the residents. There is a perception that Long Islanders are affluent individuals and while that is the case in some communities, many residents are poor to middle class. Many are struggle to pay their property taxes and could use the relief on their tax bills.