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Will the Property Tax Cap Lower Your Tax Bill?

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed into law a cap on annual property tax increases. Advocates say the cap will force fiscal discipline on local governments, but opponents say it's smoke and mirrors.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and a group of local lawmakers last week to symbolically sign legislation creating the state's first cap on annual property tax increases. The signing was at the home of Russell and Tara Klein, who said they pay more than $16,000 in property taxes each year.

The Kleins are far from alone. Westchester is one of the highest-taxed counties in the nation, with a median property tax bill of $8,500. That's in comparison to a state average of $3,700 and more than four times the national figure of $1,900.

Cuomo and other advocates of the 2 percent tax cap, which exempts increase in pensions costs and large legal settlements, say it will not only limit annual tax increases but also force fiscal discipline on local governments and school districts. Cuomo has repeatedly called for government to redesign itself on all levels, rooting out waste and inefficiencies.

Opponents of the cap, including education officials, say it will force a reduction in municipal services and further income inequalities in education while failing to lower tax bills and, in fact, ensuring a minimum 2 percent annual increase.

The cap expires in five years, when lawmakers will have to decide whether or not it's working.

"I think when this expires, people are not going to see lower taxes; what they will see is the negative impact this has on their schools and municipal services," said Sen. Suzi Oppenheimer (D-Port Chester).

"This bill is also going to quickly increase educational inequalities which are based on income and zip code."

Oppenheimer and many of her colleagues who are also opposed to the cap still voted in favor of it, mainly because it was packaged together with strengthened rent control laws, a tuition increase for SUNY schools and other smaller measures.

The bill also includes $127 million in cost savings for local governments, most of which would come from "piggybacking" on existing contracts. Even lawmakers who support the cap, including Assemblyman Steve Katz (R-Yorktown) said greater relief from state mandates is crucial to making the cap work.

"Albany should have listened to those out in the field dealing directly with these mandates," Katz said. "However disappointing this bill is, I believe that this is a step forward, albeit a baby step."

He added that the cap "will not provide immediate relief for the homeowners and businesses already struggling under hefty property tax bills."

Some proponents touted the mandate relief measures, including Sen. Greg Ball (R-Patterson), who said the costs that drive up property taxes could take years to contain.

"People also have to understand that this legislation creates the framework for doing away with unfunded mandates comprehensively, and we will hopefully do exactly that in the coming years,” Ball said.

The senator also said he is creating a local mandate relief council that will meet regularly and forward proposals to a statewide mandate relief team appointed by Cuomo.  

The tax cap takes effect in the next fiscal year, meaning school districts and local governments will grapple with it during upcoming budget deliberations.

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Here's a look at what our local lawmakers were up to between June 24 and July 1, as well as how productive they were during this year's legislative session, gleaned from a report by the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG). The DisPatch this summer will feature stories on some of the bills that became law this year.

Assemblyman Tom Abinanti (D-Greenburgh) applauded the decision by drug manufacturer Acorda Therapeutics to relocate in Ardsley, creating up to 190 new jobs. He said the deal, which includes more than $5 million in tax breaks for Acorda, is a prime example of effective public-private partnerships.

Abinanti introduced 11 bills this year, of which four passed the Assembly and two were introduced in the Senate.
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Assemblyman Bob Castelli (R-Goldens Bridge), who has sponsored a number of bills aimed at reining in the natural-gas extraction method known as "hydrofracking," issued cautious approval for a set of recommendations released by the state on Friday. He said he was particularly optimistic about a "blue ribbon panel" of environmentalists, industry officials and lawmakers tasked with reviewing the state's policies on hydrofracking when they are drawn up over the next year.

Castelli introduced 70 bills and passed three in the Assembly. His chamber also passed all 35 of the resolutions he sponsored.
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Assemblywoman Sandy Galef (D-Ossining) was the champion of a bill awaiting the governor's signature that will allow parents of stillborn children to receive birth certificates. The proposal has been circulating since 2003, but was only passed by both houses of the legislature last month. In a bill memo, Galef says the small measure can go a long way in providing closure to parents.

Galef was also successful in pushing a bill that would amend the state constitution to allow lawmakers to view bills electronically. Currently bills must be printed, leading to mountains of paper piling up on legislators' desks each day. Amendments must be approved by two consecutive legislatures before facing a popular vote, meaning the soonest the paperless proposal could take effect is 2014.

The assemblywoman introduced 95 bills, passed seven, and saw 11 introduced in the Senate.
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Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee (D-Suffern) was one of 10 Assembly members who voted against a bill that would legalize sparklers and some other fireworks. She told Gannett the state shouldn't condone something so potentially dangerous, pitting her against Rockland County colleague Ken Zebrowski (D-New City), who co-sponsored the bill. He said he expects Gov. Cuomo to sign the measure.

Jaffee introduced 49 bills, 14 of which passed the Assembly and 16 of which were introduced in the Senate.
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Assemblyman Steve Katz (R-Yorktown) wants Albany's "three-headed snake" -- Gov. Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos -- to ask Washington for a waiver to opt out of the requirements of the federal Affordable Health Care Act. The leaders scrambled to come to a deal on creating a health care exchange, which is a marketplace where people without insurance can shop competitive rates, but Senate Republicans balked. Lawmakers are expected to strike a deal on the exchange, which is required in order for states to receive federal funding, later this year.

Katz introduced 21 bills in his first year in office, but passed none through the Assembly.
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Assemblyman George Latimer (D-Rye) passed a bill through the Assembly recently that would create a crime prevention program for small businesses. The program would be a "one-stop shop" for tips and strategies to prevent theft, fraud and other crimes. Latimer said the measure, which has stalled in the Senate, would increase the profits of local businesses, many of which can't afford to hire private consultants.

The Assembly passed 10 of Latimer's 53 bills this year, and 14 of the measures were introduced in the Senate.
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Assemblywoman Amy Paulin (D-Scarsdale) was one of the most productive members of the Assembly during her first five terms, and this year was no different with the assemblywoman introducing 118 bills, 16 of which passed the Assembly. Twenty-five were introduced in the Senate.
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Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski (D-New City) was the co-sponsor of a bill expected to be signed by Gov. Cuomo that would legalize sparklers and some other mild fireworks. Zebrowski says it will bring the state up to $2 million a year in tax revenues, which is currently lost to neighboring states with legal fireworks.

Rockland County Independence Party Chairwoman Debra Ortutay, a Valley Cottage resident, was , including perjury and forgery. She allegedly testified to the validity of signatures on write-in petitions for Frank Sparaco, a Rockland County legislator and Ortutay's son-in-law, when he ran against Zebrowski last year. Prosecutors say she had not witnessed the signatures. The assemblyman initiated the complaint against Ortutay.

Zebrowski introduced 69 bills, eight of which were passed. Ten were introduced in the Senate.
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Sen. Greg Ball (R-Patterson) announced Senate passage of a bill that will prohibit public employers from eliminating the job of a soldier stationed overseas. The bill was introduced after two Army sergeants were laid off from the Metropolitan Transit Authority while fighting in the Middle East. The bill has already passed the Assembly, where it's sponsor was Vietnam veteran Bob Castelli (R-Goldens Bridge).

The senator announced that he will hold his next hearing into the state of homeland security in New York on Sept. 8 in New York City. The first hearing, in April, caused a small stir because it featured speakers who criticized Islam.

Ball introduced 108 bills, passing nine in the Senate. Twenty-four were introduced in the Assembly.

It's old news now, but you can watch clips of Ball's slew of cable news appearances discussing his bid to strengthen religious protections in the bill that legalized same-sex marriage in New York. Ball was interviewed on CNN, MSNBC and local station RNN.
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Sen. David Carlucci (D-Clarkstown) said he was disappointed that the state appears to be close to allowing hydraulic fracturing, or hydrofracking, in certain parts of the state. Carlucci, who sponsored a bill that would have extended an existing moratorium on hydrofracking, said more time is needed to study the method, which opponents say pollutes air and drinking water. 

In a statement, Carlucci said he is working with the Cuomo administration and the town of Warwick to offset the impact of the closure of the Mid-Orange Correctional Facility. The prison will be closed as part of Cuomo's statewide redesign of the prison system, which includes six other closures.

The senator had a busy first year, introducing 80 bills and passing 14. Twenty made it to the Assembly.
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Sen. Suzi Oppenheimer (D-Port Chester) lauded Assembly and Senate passage of "Complete Streets" legislation, which would require street improvement projects to consider safer access to roadways for pedestrians, bicyclists and public transportation. The measure was a key agenda item for environmental groups this year.

Oppenheimer will hold mobile office hours on July 9 from 10:30 a.m to noon at the New Rochelle Public Library, and from 1 to 2:30 p.m. at the Ossining Public Library. For more information contact Lailoni Narvaez at (914) 934-5250.

The veteran senator introduced 136 bills and passed 12, while 13 were introduced in the Assembly. Her 57 resolutions all passed.
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Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) said the deal that will see Acorda Therapeutics relocate to Ardsley could "further promote our region as a hub for biotechnical pharmaceuticals," and that it will create stable jobs in the area.

Stewart-Cousins saw five of her 53 bills pass the Senate, and five introduced in the Assembly.

concernedaboutthehallow July 05, 2011 at 02:27 PM
that sounds about right....
ASleepyBoy July 05, 2011 at 05:20 PM
Most teachers that I know use old lesson plans which they simply modify from year to year and complete their grading, etc. during (Union mandated) free periods. Yes, they have to meet with parents and during exam time they bring home work but for the majority of the school year, they do not really work nights or weekends.
Anna July 05, 2011 at 05:59 PM
According to statistics I have seen the median income for teachers in Westchester County is $115,000/year.
Anna July 05, 2011 at 06:00 PM
According to statistics I have seen the median income for teachers in Westchester County is $115,000/year. And of the 10 months they work there is 4 weeks of vacation.
Anna July 05, 2011 at 06:04 PM
According to statistics I have seen the median income for teachers in Westchester County is $115,000/year. And of the 10 months they work there is 4 weeks of vacation.
Billy July 05, 2011 at 06:12 PM
Most teachers I encountere reuse lesson plans year after year and the material gets really stale. Also the districts have 1/2 days for most parent/teacher meetings. Its usually very very hard to get the night slots.
concernedaboutthehallow July 05, 2011 at 06:25 PM
plus at least another month off with spring break, mid winter break, winter break....etc etc no?
Meredith Lesly July 05, 2011 at 06:48 PM
Private sector workers typically get 10 paid holidays and 14 paid vacation days, which leaves 236 actual work days. Most teachers work 9-10 hours a day at school and take work home many days and weekends. They have to prepare for the next year at the end of summer. Same thing between semesters. I don't understand why you're bashing teachers. Most teachers work hard and help to give your kids a good education. I'm sure most teachers in Westchester work especially hard. And you know what? Places with good schools have higher property values than other places. That's because most people want to move to a place with good schools. So in the long run property owners benefit in a big way, and in the shorter run they have better neighbors and better educated kids.
concernedaboutthehallow July 05, 2011 at 06:59 PM
not bashing at all just laying out the facts I have already achknowledged they have a very important job.....9-10 hours a day? not sure if that is true when school day ends at 3:30 but even if so...big deal so does average private sector job....take work home? again no difference weekends...again this is all standard protocol for privated sector and now with the technology(PDA's and such) we never get to turn off at all...not so in private sector(not just teachers here). My beef is with pension and benefits that are unsustainable this is what needs to change....I also think the tenure system is a joke and should be eliminated as well as fosters keeping BAD teachers. Do I think they make a little to much nowadays given all the time off.....YES I do but would live with the salaries if the bene's were addressed.....as far as benefitting my house price....while good schools do benefit(we certainly aren't even top of the list in tarrytown though...) the burden they are other public sector categories are putting on taxes is actually causing our property values to decline....high taxes is a MAJOR factor in deciding to purchase this broken system in Westchester is hurting home values big time and will continue to....no one is going to buy your house for a decent price if they have to drop 2G/3G or more a month for taxes that only get you basic services.....I hope you see my point it is very clear and accurate....it needs to end now.
Meredith Lesly July 05, 2011 at 07:02 PM
That's for teachers with 10 years of experience, not all teachers.
concernedaboutthehallow July 05, 2011 at 07:16 PM
Here is Joann's post again....she says it better than I have....this is the reality...the politicians and Union delegates better get on board the jig is up this madness ends now....... Given that our property taxes have increased to almost 4 times what they were compared to when we bought our house 20 years ago, I am thankful that Governor Cuomo has managed to push the Tax cap through the legislature. These increases have come during a period of low inflation and limited growth in our school population. If one were to forecast into the future, it becomes overwhelmingly apparent that the past rate of increase is neither feasible nor sustainable . The reality is that the economy isn't doing well, incomes -other than contractual ones- have been and are decreasing, and governments have expanded services to unsustainable levels. They are going to have to embrace the realities of the corporate world and learn how to manage in a decreasing revenue environment. Instead of wasting time, resources, and energy fighting the inevitable, governments should embrace the opportunity to prioritize services (within the constructs of mandates), reevaluate how and which services are delivered, and find ways of achieving economies of scale through sharing or combining. Governments are going to have to begin to evaluate services on a per unit cost, a concept that is currently foreign! It is a process that is long overdue and in the long run, we will all be better off for it.
Ross Revira July 05, 2011 at 07:26 PM
And that is without pension and benefits.Last time I checked their vacation is 11 weeks.
Anna July 05, 2011 at 07:27 PM
So by exempting legal settlements that can add 1% to the property tax bill. Many Districts are paying at least 1-2% of their budget in certiorari claims every year. Exempting pension costs lets the District raise the budget by the 2-4% increase thats coming down the pike. So great, the School Districts can exempt 3-6% budget increases which could translate into a property tax exemption of 2-6% depending on the assessment. School Boards don't want to raise property taxes, they would like to actually lower them, but until the legislators act on pensions and health benefits, taxes will only continue to go up. By the way, why did the legislature let health insurance companies raise rates 10-14% this year despite record profits? New York reinstated insurance regulation last year. Imagine what it would be without regulation?
Reality July 05, 2011 at 07:40 PM
We need to stop blaming teachers for everything that has gone wrong in the economy the past few years. Teachers were not responsible for the housing bubble, they did not give out bad loans and they did not reap billions of dollars in bonuses becasue of it. No, that was bankers, wall street and yes, even those of us who decided to live beyond our means. And teachers salaries and benefits haven't gone up 4x so they are not to blame for our real estate taxes going up 4x in recent years. Most teachers are extremely hard working, dedicated and committed to our children's education and while they make a good, but fair salary I don't know of any teacher ever found guilty of becoming rich being a teacher. While we all agree we need to rein in real estate taxes I don't believe a cap is the answer and constantly blaming teachers will not help either. Instead of assigning blame lets think positively how we can reduce costs and our real estate taxes
Meredith Lesly July 05, 2011 at 07:49 PM
Over the past 20 years, 89% of the funds used to pay NYSTRS benefits came from investment returns and employee contributions. Only 11% of the funds came from property taxes.
Anna July 05, 2011 at 07:54 PM
The fact is health insurance expenses have been allowed to rise insanely with teachers paying in 10% at best, 0% at worst. In the public sector people who are thrilled to get health insurance benefits are paying 25%-100%. I don't begrudge teachers a healthy salary. They do very important work. But you cannot have a corresponding pension. With teachers in Westchester retiring at salaries of $120,000 and then receiving a pension of $90,000/year for 25 years that comes out to over $2 million per teacher. Unsustainable. When the market goes down everyone in the private sector suffered the same, but those in the public sector didn't suffer at all. People who lost their jobs still had to pay their property taxes and pay for these pensions that are almost twice the New York State median income. Millionaires who have a union and have no sympathy for those in the private sector. When the private sector was doing well they were very generous to teachers. then when the economy tanked the teachers had no sympathy for those in the private sector. No give backs, no sharing of the pain. I want to join that union!
Meredith Lesly July 05, 2011 at 08:06 PM
In Westchester County, property tax levies went up 67% from 1995-2005. Clearly they haven't quadrupled in the past 20 years.
concernedaboutthehallow July 05, 2011 at 08:16 PM
Anna well said that about sums it up.....anyone who thinks this is not a broken rigged system is smoking some good stuff....this is clearly broken and no it's not just the teachers it is the total system for all public sector......we are done paying for what we don't even get....crazy this is only system I have ever heard of that the people paying all the bills get screwed and have virtually no say.... I agree average teacher is dedicated hard working and cares deeply for kids they are educating....to bad the union that represents them have none of those qualities...they are fat greedy slimly s+$mbags who don't give a crap about kid or the communities they are hurting......UNIONS ARE BAD..........they were needed 50 or 100 years ago when workers were taken advantage of now THEY are the ones who take advantage of anyone who has to deal with them........FACT.....
concernedaboutthehallow July 05, 2011 at 08:19 PM
Meredith are you really saying that the increases we have had to endure are not completely out of whack with reality.....REALLY if so you don't get simple math and I am done with this discussion....TAXES are OUT OF CONTROL........HIGHEST IN THE COUNTRY>>>>>>>Grow much faster than incomes that have to support them.......Can you dig it Meredith???
concernedaboutthehallow July 05, 2011 at 08:32 PM
well said Anna well said we can't afford it...end of story...we don't get it from our employers we pay bills around here last time I checked i agree average teacher is hard working and caring.....unfortunately the Union that represents them is not.....they are greedy slimly s+*mbags who would sell there soul down the river for the next ridiculous contract...unions are a joke, they were needed 50 or 100 years ago when workers were truly mistreated but now they are the ones who do the mistreating anyone who has to deal with one know they are inefficient and costly....we are fed up we can't afford it anymore and we are saying enough is enough........
concernedaboutthehallow July 05, 2011 at 08:35 PM
Meredith do you really think that the tax increases we have had to endure in Westchester are ok? If so we don't get simple math it is not ok they are growing much faster than the incomes that have to support them and have spawned the crazy contracts that corrupt politician sign in blood to get elected....no it is not ok it is unsustainable and needs to end now.....
concernedaboutthehallow July 05, 2011 at 08:38 PM
Meredith do you really think that the tax increases we have had to endure in Westchester are ok? If so we don't get simple math it is not ok they are growing much faster than the incomes that have to support them and have spawned the crazy contracts that corrupt politician sign in blood to get elected....no it is not ok it is unsustainable and needs to end now.....
concernedaboutthehallow July 05, 2011 at 08:55 PM
Anna well said....if anyone thinks we can stay on this path and pay all this out they are nuts......we can't we are already hemmoraging households escaping this tax burden. Note average teacher is hardworking and cares deeply for their kids I am not debating that....problem is the union that represents them does not give one iotta about the kids or communities they are destroying they are greedy slimy creatines who would sell their soul for the next pork ridden contract.....and the corrupt politians just play right along to get reelected....it's disgusting....no one else on earth do people who actually pay the bills have less of a say....well that is going to end
concernedaboutthehallow July 05, 2011 at 08:56 PM
Anna well said....if anyone thinks we can stay on this path and pay all this out they are nuts......we can't we are already hemmoraging households escaping this tax burden. Note average teacher is hardworking and cares deeply for their kids I am not debating that....problem is the union that represents them does not give one iotta about the kids or communities they are destroying they are greedy slimy creatines who would sell their soul for the next pork ridden contract.....and the corrupt politians just play right along to get reelected....it's disgusting....no one else on earth do people who actually pay the bills have less of a say....well that is going to end
ASleepyBoy July 05, 2011 at 09:00 PM
2005 - 1995 = 10 years, not 20 years. At least that is what my teachers taught me....
Ross Revira July 05, 2011 at 09:05 PM
This discussion is like a dog chasing its tail.
ASleepyBoy July 05, 2011 at 09:06 PM
Anna, you nailed it with this comment. While the private sector responds to our economy, the public sector has always been safe. While I do not begrudge teachers or anyone in the public sector their salaries or benefits, the way things currently are, it is simply not sustainable. Historically publiic sector jobs were taken because of job security, nice pensions and benefits and (generally) less stressful responsibilities. now, they have all of that with salaries which are, on average, higher than those in the private sector. Maybe it would be unfair to take away all that has already been promised but it is DEFINITELY time to stop promising anything more...
Meredith Lesly July 05, 2011 at 09:11 PM
There are different kinds of taxes. This article is only about property taxes and that's all I've been addressing. Do I think the overall situation is fair? Of course not. The growing concentration of wealth in the hands of fewer and fewer people means that everyone else is hurting disproportionately. Minnesota shut down a few days ago because the Republicans refused to allow a 3% surtax on the 7700 millionaires who live there. That's 0.03% of the state's population. NJ just passed a similar surtax, but it's apparently going to be vetoed. I'm fairly sure a similar surtax in NY would make a huge difference in your lives. But it won't happen.
ASleepyBoy July 05, 2011 at 09:14 PM
I have to disagree. With forums such as this, more and more of the general populace is becoming enraged with the situation and, eventually, they will begin to vote out the career politicians who are in the pockets of the unions and will vote for reform. The only question is whether any of us are actually going to live to see that day....
Meredith Lesly July 05, 2011 at 09:22 PM
Another bit of data. The property tax rate in Westchester was 30.1% in 1995 and 22.37 in 2005. That's right, it went down. A lot. Taxes themselves went up because property values went up. A lot.

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