Winner: Senate will act first on property tax cap

Staff Writer
The Chronicle Express

ELMIRA — State Sen. George Winner says the Senate will return to Albany on Friday for a

special session to act on legislation to implement a cap on future school  property tax increases and to reduce costs for local school districts.

“The Senate is setting the table for future property tax relief.  We’re going to take the first legislative action to limit school property  tax increases and to take the other steps necessary to make a property tax  cap effective. A property tax cap has to be accompanied by school mandate  relief and other intiatives that lower costs for local school districts,”  said Winner in an announcement released by his office on Wednesday. “It’s an important first step in what has to be an ongoing,  evolving commitment to meaningful, long-term property tax relief. The  property tax has become too hard to handle for far too many homeowners.”

Winner said the Senate’s agenda on Friday will include action on Gov.David Paterson’s proposal to place an annual cap on the growth of  school property taxes at four percent or 120 percent of Consumer Price  Index (CPI), whichever is less. As part of that effort, Winner said the

Senate is also going to act on additional measures aimed at reducing costs for local school districts and ensuring even greater relief for local taxpayers.

“We have to reduce property taxes, but we have to do it in a way that doesn’t jeopardize the ability of local school districts to meet costs and provide the quality education that we all want our students to receive,” said Winner.

Winner said that in addition to the property tax cap, the Senate’s action on Friday will include:

> banning unfunded state mandates on local school districts;

> providing local school districts with relief from increasing pension costs by implementing a state takeover of pension cost increases above four percent;

> offering incentives for consolidated services between school districts;

> increasing state aid for the construction of “green” schools and other energy efficiency efforts; and

> a two-year moratorium on property reassessments.

According to Winner, the Senate is also acting on Friday to put in place a constitutionally mandated, four-percent cap on state spending. “The most effective way to control state spending is to cap it,” said Winner.

Under the Senate’s constitutional amendment, in any given year under the state spending cap, 50 percent of collected tax revenues above the state’s allowable spending under the cap would be placed in a reserve fund and 50 percent would be returned to taxpayers in the form of direct rebates.

Winner said if a constitutionally mandated cap on state spending had been in place the last five years, state taxpayers would have saved $13.1 billion -- half of which would have been returned to taxpayers and the other half placed in a reserve fund.