Newsmaker of the month: Have tax cap determine school votes


What started in the late 1990s as an effort to have taxpayers have a greater say in financial decisions on its schools has run its course. Traditionally, on the third Tuesday in May, residents are asked to vote on district budgets, a proposition or two that includes a capital project or bus purchase and school board members.

For another year, the budget votes have proven to be a waste of time. Consider the statewide results alone. In 543 school districts, only nine spending plans were defeated.

“New Yorkers again showed that they believe public schools unite our communities,” said New York State United Teachers President Melinda J. Person. “Voters came out to support investing in our children and educators. They also supported school board candidates committed to bringing people together through strong and well-run public schools, not those who stoke division. When local voters prioritize supporting public schools, everybody wins.”

Person’s comments are only partially correct. Most residents who vote — and it is not a large number — are the same people who complain about the high tax burden in New York state. But for some reason, these individuals believe approving school budgets that raise property taxes will fix the problem.

It does not.

Additionally, since all 18 school budgets passed with little resistance in this county, it’s time for New York state to allow the tax cap to be the new barometer. If a school budget is under the cap, there’s no vote. If it exceeds the state-imposed percentage, then residents vote.

Even then, districts have an advantage. As the New York State United Teachers union noted this year, 13 of the 16 districts seeking to override the tax cap succeeded.

Residents are quick to complain about higher food and gas prices. More taxes? They’ll complain — but still vote yes.


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