School taxes punish payers

The state budget for 2013-14 boosted aid to schools. Locally, the Gloversville school district received a 2.2 percent aid increase, Johnstown received a 5.7 percent increase, Mayfield received a 4.1 percent increase and Broadalbin-Perth received a 5.1 percent increase. Other local districts will see similar jumps in aid.

Regardless of those increases, school budget proposals are asking local property taxpayers to pony up more money. For example, the Johnstown district is seeking a 3 percent tax-levy increase, Gloversville is calling for a 2 percent increase and Broadalbin-Perth wants a 3.3 percent tax increase. Some districts want to increase their tax levies just shy of the state-imposed tax caps. The cap, commonly referred to as the “2 percent” cap, often is much higher than 2 percent because the actual cap is adjusted based on a formula.

And so, again this year, voters will go to the polls to decide on school budgets that increase taxes. It’s nice to see many local schools maintaining or improving programs in the coming school year, but we have to wonder how long the tax increases can continue before property owners fall so far into the red, they either lose their homes to tax foreclosure or sell them and head for places where taxes aren’t as painful and burdensome.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently suggested he will join the discussion about the fiscal problems facing local schools and governments and their taxpayers. Everyone involved in these discussions not only should focus on stemming public labor, pension and other costs, and reducing state mandates, but also lowering the tolerance for higher taxation.

It would be nice to hear the words “tax decrease” once in a while. That kind of talk could lead to positive changes.

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