BY PUBLISHER EMERITUS ARMAND MIELE
I’d like to begin by talking about a letter I received from a reader responding to my idea that school taxes should be paid by all. The letter stated, “Armand Miele isn’t concerned for renters.” I could never forget renters. I was a renter for many years before I could afford the American dream of owning a home. But I still say that taxing property owners exclusively to pay for our schools is wrong. It should be illegal.
Everyone benefits from school taxes, therefore everyone should pay. Renters do contribute to school taxes in their rent, but often their contribution isn’t a fair proportion of the overall expense. Yes, the landlord factors property taxes into his property expenses. But look at what’s happening in today’s economy: even though school taxes rise by the same percentage every year, the rent does not.
Landlords know that renters can’t afford the increase. In fact, just about every year the property tax increase is way more than the inflation rate. Property taxes often increase annually by five or six percent, or even nine percent, while the inflation rate is only about two percent. If the landlord asks for a five to 10 percent increase, the renter will jut move out. There are plenty of landlords out there eager to offer affordable rent to fill buildings on which they pay ever-higher expenses. The landlord is stuck. To keep his building occupied, he alone must absorb the school tax increase.
Renters, I think it goes without saying that many of you would love to own your own home. But when you do achieve that dream, and see the yearly increases, you’ll understand my point of view. You’ll understand it even better once you’re ready to retire, and have proudly made your last mortgage payment, only to get hit each year with the growing property tax bills.
A homeowner must pay the property taxes, which are more than 50 percent school taxes, whether he can afford it or not. He is forced to either pay, sell his home, or lose it. Small businesses and landlords get hit even harder, because if they don’t live in the area where they do business, they can’t even vote against rising taxes. They, too, are often forced to sell or go out of business. This is the reason you see so many small businesses fail, and so many storefronts remaining vacant.
Governor Cuomo’s property tax cap recently went into effect, but it wasn’t enough. Here in Rockland, not only did the towns vote to override the cap, but the county came up with a 30 percent increase in our taxes. If school taxes alone were removed from property owners, wouldn’t you think it would help local businesses, homeowners, and renters? Let’s not separate from one another and just put ideas into holes. Let’s get our ideas together, and together we can try to correct the unjust system for funding schools. We Rockland homeowners are taken for real fools.
I’ve said it a few times, and I will say it again and again. Vote, vote, and vote! And when you vote, just remember you are voting to support your own lifestyle. Don’t just let things happen, and then wonder how we could let it all get so out of hand. Remember, the voters set the stage, and your elected officials are supposed to carry out the plan.