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Proposed Tax Cap Worries Tarrytown Schools

Tarrytown Union Free School District Superintendent Howard Smith has his eye on the state Legislature. Proposed legislation would limit the amount of money school districts and local governments will be allowed to raise through taxes.

Smith said the legislation was “an assault on local control.” He believes communities are capable of setting their own taxes.

“I think it’s extremely bad policy,” he said.

The proposed law would cap property taxes, preventing them from increasing by more than a few percentage points, with the goal of relieving the tax burden on Westchester homeowners, who pay among the highest property taxes in the country.

Local property taxpayers have carried an increasing share of the burden to fund school district budgets, as the state has cut its state aid contribution nearly every year. At the same time, school districts must follow expensive state mandates for items such as special education, teacher pensions and other benefits where costs continue to rise.

Smith said if schools were released of some of the state mandates they could control costs in school budgets. Releasing them from mandates would prevent them from having to balance the budget by laying off people.

According to state Assemblywoman Sandra Galef (D-Ossining) who represents the 90th Assembly district, which includes Peekskill, Cortlandt and Ossining among other communities, the cap being considered would be anywhere from two to five percent.

Despite the outcry against the measure by school administrators and parents, Galef said she expects the measure to be adopted by both the Assembly and the Senate. Governor Cuomo supports the tax cap.

“How can we continue to be the county with the highest property taxes in the state?” Galef asked, noting that she has heard from a majoirty of constituents who are in favor of the tax cap.

Galef said she will support the measure largely because the law will have a “sunset clause” or time limit.  “The law will be in place for a limited period and  we will evaluate whether it is working or not before it is renewed.” she said.

Legislators will end their session for the summer on Monday, and the law is expected to reach the floor prior to the close of the session, Galef said.

How do you think the state legislature should vote? Let us know in the comments or email .

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