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surveySiena Poll - Circuit Breaker Tops Property Tax Cap

July 22, 2008
TREND's Results bring call for Siena to re-do polling

After our organization's state-wide poll last month indicated that New Yorkers prefer an income-based circuit breaker over a tax cap, Siena university bowed to pressure to conduct a similar survey. Last month, the university released
results that suggested New Yorkers want a property tax cap - the result of responses to a leading and vague question.

Yesterday's poll, however, separated out for New Yorkers the two mechanisms. The conclusion is the same as our first in the state poll indicated - the majority of New Yorkers prefer the Circuit breaker. The wording of the questions relating to the different property tax relief options varies slightly, but the results are similar.

To view the complete poll and responses click here.


surveyPoll Says New Yorkers Prefer Circuit Breaker over Cap

June 22, 2008

A poll conducted and paid for by tax policy group TREND NY over the weekend shows that New Yorkers overwhelmingly support legislation that would limit a taxpayer’s total property taxes over a cap on local contributions toward school funding. The random automated phone survey polled over 500 registered voters across the state asking them if they supported a measure known as a circuit breaker; which would limit an individual’s total property taxes to a small percentage of their income. By greater than a two to one margin (272/126 ) respondents preferred an income based cap on their taxes over a cap on local school levies. When given the specific choice of a 4% school tax cap or a limit of 5% of their income for their total property tax bill, as exists in Vermont, voters favored the circuit breaker by a 5 to 1 margin, 66% to 13% with 21% undecided. Respondents indicated their primary motivation was to limit taxes and not to curb school funding by an 82% to 18% margin. “In the past, poorly worded polls that didn’t explain the different types of caps have led the public into thinking that the only way overburdened New Yorkers can be helped would be to limit school levies. “ said TREND Director Robert McKeon. “The truth is that a traditional tax cap will at best curb future increases, while a circuit breaker would provide immediate relief to many taxpayers and insure New Yorkers against unreasonable levels in the future. Taxpayers want a more equitable system of taxation, not just controlled spending. A circuit breaker could accomplish that. “ McKeon added that the survey results confirm the testimony given to the Governor’s Commission during the course of the many hearings. “There was almost unanimous support for circuit breaker and very few calling on them to propose a cap. That’s why it was disappointing to see that they would prioritize something that would not protect individuals, many of whom are overburdened.”

To view the complete results click here.
To take the poll click here.


Valley View: School budget reform on shaky legs

By Robert McKeon • June 8, 2008

A highly anticipated report by the Governor's Property Tax Relief Commission has been released for all to consume. Elements of the 112-page document could lift our spirits but may also produce a delayed hangover.
To read the complete Valley View opinion, click here.


NY Times Joins our call for Circuit Breaker

Paper Deems Cap an Election Year Gimmick

Following our op-ed submissions, today's NY Times Editorial Page calls the Circuit Breaker "The best part of the Suozzi proposal". It asks the Governor to look at the whole picture and not to support a cap. "It will do more damage than good." the paper goes onto say.
To read the complete editorial, click here.


Advanced copy of Property Tax Commission Report

TREND has received a copy of the Governor's Property Tax Commission report due out tomorrow.

In it the commission recommends a circuit-breaker and a levy cap of 4% or 120 of CPI. The report goes on to list to recommendations for dealing with unfunded mandates and highlights areas to be studied for cost reduction.

For the complete 112 page report click here.


Poughkeepsie Journal weighs in on Tax Reform

Poughkeepsie Journal calls circuit-breaker a "provocative notion".


Your direct connection to
the Governor's Property Tax Relief Commission


Congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand

Gillibrand Joins Our Call for Albany to Enact Circuit Breaker

Congresswoman's Letter to Commission Chairman Suozzi echoes the sentiment to approve interim solution.

Back on January 17th of this year, immediately following then Governor Spitzer's creation of the Property Tax Relief Commission, we were first to respond his call for enacting a cap ("Lawmakers Off-Key in Property Tax Reform Chorus") by stating that instead NY should pass circuit breaker legislation - "capping" the amount any taxpayer needs to pay to a portion of their income.

Four months of touring and educating throughout New York have led to wide support for this measure. Last week, Congresswoman Gillibrand joined the effort with this letter to the Governor and Commission. In it she says that "this would protect working class families, seniors on a fixed income, and farmers from bearing an unsustained burden."

Gillibrand calls on the Governor to review the current system for a complete overhaul. "The current system is pitting taxpayers ....against our schoolchildren, and this is not a constructive dynamic."

To read a complete copy of the letter click here.

With just 10 days left to the Commission's recommendation, they'll need to hear from you. Use the link above for your direct connection to their staff.




Presentation to the Governor's Property Tax Commissionpresentation to the Governor on tax reform


TREND DIrector, Robert McKeon, was asked to present at the Governor's Property Tax Commission in Albany. 

Tom Suozzi
To view the presentation click here.

News on the Commission: Albany should take another stab at the numbers notes "the Commission on Property Tax Relief, which is working on a report for May 22. At the moment, the commission, led by Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi, is considering a so-called circuit breaker that would relieve the burden on lower-income homeowners. It should also address spiraling school spending. Lawmakers should give the commission's ultimate recommendations careful consideration."


Letter of thanks from Suozzi here.




Presentations from Conference 2008

On March 18, 2008,
the Hudson Valley enjoyed an evening
of tax reform presentations. mckeon

The presentations can be downloaded here (in PDF format).

PRESENTER: Frank Mauro

PRESENTER: Robert McKeon

PRESENTER: John Whiteley







Putnam County Legislature to Vote to Support Bill to Overhaul Funding of Schools


On Tuesday, March 18, the Putnam County legislature is expected to pass a resolution supporting Assemblyman Cahill's Equity in Education Act - bill A04746. The legislation would provide for replacing the property tax for funding the basic costs of a quality education with a graduated income tax phased-in over a five year period.

The impact of the bill would likely result in the transfer of some of the tax burden from the lower 96% of New Yorkers to the top 3-4% of income earners.


Makes provisions for the state to assume all costs of basic quality education and for the elimination of real property taxes for the support of education; requires board of regents to establish a schedule of mandatory basic services and costs thereof; school districts shall submit an annual basic budget to the department of education for basic services; increases taxes on personal income and business; makes special provisions for reduction of tax in certain cities and for reduction in rent by tenants in such cities; provides for phased in methods of funding using a "Basic Quality Education" formula; repeals certain provisions of the tax law and real property tax relating thereto.

PURPOSE: The purpose of this plan is to permit the financing of public schools in New York State within the context of the following objectives:

1) the elimination of the inequitable and regressive real estate tax as the support of public schools;

2) the retention of present levels of local control by school districts; and

3) the guarantee of quality and equality of educational opportunity for all children of the state.

Read the outline of the bill here.
Or the entire text here




Property Tax Reform Conference 2008

"Changing the Property Tax System in New York"

Due to limited available space, the event is by invitation only.
If you received a notice in the mail with your name, then a space is being held for you and you do NOT need to confirm.
E-mail for more information.

The Governor has formed a seven member property tax commission to draft recommendations, including a cap proposal by May 15th of this year.  If passed into law, a tax cap could have major impacts on municipal, school district and taxpayer budgets.

This educational event will discuss the experience of other states that have enacted caps; potential benefits and drawbacks, as well as other tax relief and reform alternatives under consideration. The evening’s objective is to provide decision-makers with the up-to-date information they require regarding this important policy matter.

Conference details here.


Lawmakers Off-Key in Property Tax Reform Chorus

Valley Views: Property tax cap wouldn't be much help

by Robert McKeon, Thursday, January 17, 2008

A choir of elected officials from all branches of state government have begun harmonizing a tune in the property tax reform movement - and it's not one we will enjoy if it gets produced.

... No coincidence that the governor referred to the cap as a "blunt instrument." With overrides requiring a two-thirds voter referendum, only the wealthiest districts will thrive, further dividing New Yorkers by economic class. Studies confirmed alarming disparity in educational results according to the community's ability to override, and it is incredibly difficult to turn around a school district once it goes downhill.

Entire article here.


Lawmakers Propose to
"Put a Lid On it"

By Robert McKeon - October 15, 2007

Legislation to Cap Property Taxes by Income

As the march to overhaul the funding of our schools continues, some representatives in Albany have put forth temporary stop-gap legislation to cap the amounts we pay in property taxes by income.

The bills (A5380 and A1575) are fairly similar, providing the bulk of relief for those at the lowest levels. The benefit of the proposals are that they don't provide for increased property tax bills for any homeowner, while at least two of them may not reduce overall taxation substantially for many New Yorkers.

The caps would include all local, county and school taxes in the calculations. Property assessments and distribution of funding for schools are not a part of the legislation.

Take a moment to see how they might impact you if they are enacted. A comparison of the bills follows a brief description. The two pieces of legislation are:

A5380 Sayward

Purpose: The bill would provide for a personal income tax credit for taxpayers whose Real Property Taxes exceed a certain percentage of their household gross income. Complete bill info here.

If the Household Gross income is   then the Cap on Real Property Taxes would be:
  $50,000 or less    3% of household gross income
 50,000 - 100,000      5% of household gross income
 100,000-150,000    6% of household gross income
 150,000-200,000     7% of household gross income
 200,000 +        No limit

( Galef) & S1053 (Little)

Purpose: Establishes a personal income tax credit for a portion of a taxpayer`s residential real property taxes which exceeds a certain percentage of the taxpayer`s household gross income; provides that the taxpayer shall have resided in such residential real property for not less than 10 years; provides that such credit shall not apply to taxpayers whose household gross income exceeds $200,000 or who have received the school tax relief exemption on such real property. Complete bill info here.

Household Gross Income    Maximum Real Property Tax
$100,000 or less    6% of gross income
 $100,000 - 150,000     7% of household gross income
$150,000 - 200,000      8% of household gross income
 More than 200,000    no limit


Impact on You

See in the chart below how the bills compare and may impact you.

If your income is: A5380 A1575 / S1053
$20,000 $600    (3%)  1200 (6%)+ 30% of the difference Between total tax bill and cap
$30,000 $900    (3%)  $1800 (6%) +30%
$40,000  $1200     (3%) $2400 (6%) +30%
$50,000  $1500     (3%)  $3000 (6%) +30%
$60,000 $3000     (5%)  $3600 (6%) +30%
$70,000 $3500     (5%)  $4200 (6%) +30%
$80,000 $4000     (5%)  $4800 (6%) +30%
$90,000 $4500      (5%) $5400 (6%) +30%
$100,000  $5000       (5%) $6000 (6%) +30%
$120,000 $7200       (6%) $8400 (7%) +30%
$140,000 $8400    (6%) $9800 (7%) +30%
$160,000 $11,200   (7%) $10,800 (8%) +30%
$180,000 $12,600  (7%) $14,400  (8%) +30%
$200,000 $14,000    (7%) $16,000 (8%) +30%



Here are few examples of how they impact some homeowners:

Example A Current Total property taxes are: $5200, Income $55,000
 Under A5380  Under A1575 / S1053
Property Tax Cap - $2750 Property Tax Cap $3870
Homeowner Saves $2450 Homeowner Saves $1330


Example B Current Total property taxes are: $8700, Income $112,000
 Under A5380  Under A1575 / S1053
Property Tax Cap - $6720 Property Tax Cap $8000
Homeowner Saves $1980 Homeowner Saves $700


Example C Current Total property taxes are: $3900, Income $37,000
 Under A5380  Under A1575 / S1053
Property Tax Cap - $1100 Property Tax Cap $2710
Homeowner Saves $2800 Homeowner Saves $1190

Clearly A5380 would require Albany to raise more additional funds than the other alternatives. A1575/ S1053 would do little for those who incomes exceed $100,000 and may not gain traction without broader support.

Look for more pieces of legislation in the coming session in Albany that will propose to put a lid on it.


Regional News from PropertyTaxReformNOW

By Carole Kraus - October 16, 2007

Press Release

"Despite repeated calls by New Yorkers for true reform, state officials have failed to change our method of funding schools from the current reliance on property taxes to a statewide system that reflects a person's ability to pay," said Carole Kraus, convener of the first summit of New York State property tax reform advocates. Groups from across the state met in Albany on September 29, 2007 to plan a united push for change in New York's current property tax system. Entire press release here.


Spitzer to Offer Larger Budget, But With Property Tax Cuts

"Please sign at the dotted line"

2007 Property Tax Negotiations Conclude in Albany

Package consists of targeted relief rather than overall reform

by Robert McKeon, March 31, 2007

For those who have been following the travails in Albany with regard to the 2007 budget negotiations, you can relax now - it's all over except for the autographs. During the first three months of the new administration, property tax reform, the single largest issue during the campaigns; took a back seat to the tried and true marquee attraction - the personality parade.

While the group of three (Spitzer, Bruno, Silver) may have increased in size, the results continue to emerge from behind a closed door. Here are the highlights of what has transpired since "Day One".

Spitzer announces campaign to target increases in STAR and state funding of schools:

  • Majority of increase in distribution to go to needy upstate urban districts
  • Middle Class STAR increases largely go to those making under $80,000 /yr. (a combined $3 billion of additional relief and school aid distribution).

Senate proposes and quickly passes a bill to institute nearly $6B billion of additional STAR in the coming years. No indication of where funds were to be derived; relief is proportional to taxes paid and benefits are higher for wealthier suburban districts.

Property tax groups (ours being an exception) quickly denounce the Governor's proposal as "adding on to a broken system" while demanding a complete transition to income tax funding. The Senate proposal garners little attention and is deemed to be "political cover".

  • A change in the method of distributing financial aid by retooling the Foundation Aid formula
  • Increased STAR benefits targeted (in percentage terms) towards the middle class, though more of the net dollars will go to suburban districts than originally proposed.
  • Taxpayers will receive increased rebate checks if they make less than $250,000 / yr.


So where do we go from here?

The notion that Albany can simply wake up one day and replace financing schools with an income only option has continued to confound us. Such a dramatic change would have profound implications - it has been estimated that even if we revert back to brackets of up to 15.5 % (as was the case in the 70's) that it would only partially cover the amount levied on real property.

So are we any closer to a complete overhaul?

Well, yes and no. Any phasing of methods will have to be gradual in nature and will need to begin to move towards the ultimate goal: a relationship between what people can reasonably afford to pay and what they are being asked to contribute. By introducing an income based feature to STAR, Spitzer can allocate relief to the middle class and begin to inch closer to the dollars that ultimately will be paid on a "more heavily weighted towards income based program".

But some very basic structural problems still exist:

  • Identification of Revenue Sources - no real reform of the methodology can begin to occur until the other side of the ledger is identified. To quote a character in Jerry Maguire - "Show me the money". The amount of funds that were to be saved by Medicare fraud have not yet materialized and a promise of no new taxes implies that excise or other revenue sources are nowhere on the horizon. So where is the soon to be $20 billion to come from.
  • Accountabilty - As long as the folks up in Albany have safety in their seats, there isn't likely going to be an increased burden put upon the more affluent constituents. It's not in their best interest to mess with those who fund their campaigns.
  • The Nitty Gritty - Anyone who has ever tried taking the backroads to a new destination will know that you need to have a road map handy. The same is true for the an effective path towards reform. A great deal of energy and effort have been put into identifying the problems with the current system, but until investments are made into what school funding should look like and assessments are made of any potential impacts of proposed changes, than it's mostly empty words.

Please stay tuned for more...including our forums on A Road Map for Reform.


Cahill Reform Plan called "Gold Standard"
budget address

Unlike Saland's bill, Cahill's would eliminate the school property tax on commercial properties and farmland as well as homes.

Among Assembly bills, one sponsored by Kevin Cahill, D-Kingston, has gathered the support of many across the region. The state would pick up the cost of education by implementing a progressive income tax and raising another $8 billion for schools.

"The state has the constitutional responsibility, moral responsibility, to provide education in New York state," said Conor Bambrick, Cahill's legislative director. Cahill said school taxes have reached a point where more and more people can't afford to pay them.

"I see it as more than an economic problem. It's a demographic problem," he said. "We're taxing out people who spent their whole lives in a community and investing in the community."

For those in the Cahill bill is "the gold standard," its Web site states. Zatz said he has seen too many farmers forced to sell their land and homes to developers because they can't afford the mounting school taxes. The farmers, he said, often settle for a price that doesn't give them much to put in the bank once they relocate and buy another home.

"Property taxes are the number one enemy of communities," he said. "They are the number one enemy of open space."
[entire article here]


Spitzer announces real property tax changes in 2007
budget address

Proposals Target Middle-class New Yorkers for Majority of Relief

January 31, 2007 - Governor Spitzer today announced changes to both the existing STAR program and
the calculation of distribution of aid to school districts in his 2007 budget. As currently drafted the enhanced STAR program will be increased by $6 Billion over a three year period. Taxpayers earning $60,000 or less (up to $90,000 in the more affluent urban and suburban districts) will receive an % 80 increase in STAR benefits. Those earning up those rates will have additional benefits on a sliding scale (up to $235K). Those above the threshold will receive the minimum 30% increase.

The Governor introduces a new category called Foundation Aid that "...increases funding for those districts with greater financial need..." including upstate and downstate cities. The introduction of this new formula is designed to simplify a methodology that many have referred to as impossible to understand, let alone explain.

For selected excerpts from the Governor's budget address click here...


New Year, New Appointments

The Tax Reform Effort of Northern Dutchess (TREND) announced today that its’ founding director Vicky Perry will step down and be replaced by Robert McKeon, a well-known Hudson Valley farmland and open space activist and current deputy director of the group. Perry noted her full-time position at Dutchess County Board of Elections as well as increased family commitments as reasons for the change. 

The tax reform group has sponsored several forums in Red Hook, Rhinebeck, Milan, Northeast and Clinton on the need to reform the way schools are funded.

     “I’m thrilled to have this opportunity,” said McKeon.  “There is a tremendous amount of work to do before this issue gets adequately addressed.  Already we have seen post-election Albany return to band-aid modest tax relief discussions instead of real tax reform.”  McKeon thanked Perry for her work in its formation..  “Vicky put this terrific organization together before any of the local politicians were even talking about school taxes.  I already had  a great deal of admiration of her work with respect to insuring secure voting machines when she discussed the formation of TREND back in 2005.  I’m glad she will be staying on in an advisory capacity.”

      Perry cited McKeon’s experience in the Hudson Valley on educating the public on the implications of overdevelopment and taxes as one reason why she initially sought his involvement in forming TREND.  “Just about everyone knows Robert as the “go to” guy in the region if something needs to get done.  He has the respect of the public and officials of all party affiliations, because they know he genuinely cares about people and has an incredible command of the issues. It’s why communities throughout New York are constantly asking him to come and speak”.

      McKeon indicated that the group is evolving in a new direction for the new year.  “In 2006 we focused on education.  In 2007 the organization will concentrate on advocacy.  One of the main reasons we haven’t seen a solution to the problem is that Albany hasn’t committed to finding one. It takes analysis. It takes political will.  The middle class is being forced out by this unfairness that places overwhelming financial burdens on them” TREND will be assembling many of the regional reform groups for a springtime forum focused solely on potential solutions.

    Kris Munn, an informational technology consultant; was appointed to fill McKeon’s spot as deputy director. 


It's COUNTY Property Taxes this time!


New Poughkeepsie Journal article:
PINE PLAINS — Carl Popp's property on the Columbia County line isn't the most obvious case study in the ongoing debate over property tax reform. There doesn't seem to be much to tax on Popp's 232 acres other than woods and fields. .... but owning land there comes at a price. He and other Pine Plains property owners are on the receiving end of some of the largest tax rate increases in the county this year. They aren't the only ones getting hit. A Journal analysis of Dutchess County's 2007 budget proposal and state tax data found county tax rates in most Dutchess municipalities would increase (entire article here)


Past Radio Discussion

Deputy director Robert McKeon of TREND offered a fantastic contribution to the Bill Martin show broadcast in Westchester. Mr. McKeon shattered the illusion that new subdivisions reduce taxes on everybody else. His report that new construction actually increased taxes on the rest of us was very convincing. Also, Gioia Shebar of offered a description of the destruction to families and communities wrought by the school property tax was compelling testimony. The radio host has posted the interview: All you need to do is click on "direct download" and you will hear it (except he cut off the last few seconds). If anyone missed the discussion and wants to listen, it is available.
Listen here


Cahill on Video

We have seven short video segments of an interview with Assemblyman Kevin Cahill on tax reform legislation; see the movies at this page.     TOP

Other News Stories

Tax revolts are brewing (political story by Poughkeepsie Journal, June 15, 2006) more...

Reform unites residents (political story by Poughkeepsie Journal, Sunday, July 30, 2006 ) more...

State spending is out of control (Poughkeepsie Journal editorial, Saturday, July 15, 2006) more...

Rebate checks readied (political story by Poughkeepsie Journal, Friday, August 11, 2006 ) more...

3 forums scheduled on property tax reform (Advance Story by Poughkeepsie Journal, Wednesday, August 16, 2006 ) more ...


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September 7, 2006 – Assemblyman Cahill provided information on his current reform efforts, bill A8069. This bill calls for the elimination of real property taxes for the support of education. It calls for the state to assume all costs of basic quality education. School districts would submit an annual basic budget to the department of education.

August 28, 2006 – Assemblyman Joel Miller spoke on legislation bill A8598 at the Town Hall in Clinton Corners

August 21, 2006 –  State Assemblyman Patrick Manning presented his bill to a crowd at the American Legion Hall in the town of North East. Tax reform legislation bill A8590A, sponsored by Manning was described. This reform calls for income-funding of schools based on a county-by-county resolution.

August, 2006– We had a very educational presentation by Frank Mauro of the Fiscal Policy Institute. The Fiscal Policy Institute (FPI) is a nonpartisan research and education organization that focuses on the broad range of tax, budget, economic and related public policy issues that affect the quality of life and the economic well-being of New York State residents. Founded in 1991, FPI's work is intended to further the development and implementation of public policies that create a strong economy in which prosperity is broadly shared by all New Yorkers.

Mr. Mauro presented a discussion of Taxes and the State at Milan Town Hall on July 20, 2006. He talked about the theories and practices to government funding.

Part of the discussion was centered on the FPI article about increasingly regressive State income taxes: "How New York State Increased the Tax Burden on the Middle Class and Cut Taxes for its Highest Income Taxpayers by Over $8 Billion a Year". The general trends in State taxation over the past several decades has been towards more "regressive" income taxes. This makes it harder for lower and middle-class folks to pay.   TOP

Talk by the Chair of the Hudson Valley Property Tax Reform Task Force

We enjoyed having Doug Adams, chair of the Hudson Valley Property Tax Reform Task Force, visit and present at the Red Hook Town Hall. Doug conveyed a great deal of information in his presentation at the Red Hook Town Hall on June 26, 200, both with his slides and the extended Q&A afterwards.

Much off the root causes of property tax increases were attributed to (surprise!) pensions and Medicaid. This makes the problem of tax reform more than simply moving the revenue stream from one spigot to another. It becomes important to control or plan better for those two costs.


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