Municipal Associations Call for State-Local Collaboration on Property Taxes, Announce Shared Service Initiative

Press Release by NYSSBA, AOT, NYCOM and NYSAC

New York State’s four municipal associations joined together today to call for a collaborative effort between the state and local governments to lower taxes, bring jobs to New York State, and create a vibrant state where families and businesses thrive.

The groups – representing cities, counties, towns, villages and school boards – agree that lowering property taxes should be a priority, but call for a simpler, more collaborative alternative to the governor’s tax freeze proposal.

“The governor’s tax freeze proposal as is will put a deep six on the ability of schools and local governments to provide necessary programs and services,” said Timothy G. Kremer, executive director of the New York State School Boards Association (NYSSBA). “We all want lower property taxes, but at what cost? School boards are the ones who have to tell parents that their children won’t be able to take music lessons or participate in a school play because the music and arts programs have been cut.”

The proposed property tax freeze proposal offers homeowners a state rebate if the taxing jurisdiction stays within the tax cap and, in year two, also participate in the implementation of a county-wide Efficiency Plan. The plan is flawed for several reasons. As is, the proposal:

– Incentivizes local governments to increase their tax levy to the cap,
– Fails to recognize the pre-existing predominance of shared services,
– Is a top-down approach that will delay imminent consolidation/shared service plans,
– Is administratively complex and costly, and lacks transparency,
– Does not provide property tax relief to small businesses,
– Fails to address that the cap remains a disincentive to share services, and does not exclude unexpected costs of emergencies and natural disasters.

In response, the associations are proposing a simpler and cleaner proposal that benefits all property taxpayers, allows local officials to determine how best to comply with the tax cap, and doesn’t require residents to pay higher taxes upfront and wait for a refund. For local governments and schools that keep their levies under the tax cap, the state would provide incentive aid that would be directed to further property tax stabilization.

“To be clear, we are saying we have ideas for making our communities better, stronger places to live and work and raise a family. Our counties, local governments and schools stand ready to work with our partners at the state level to find ways to lower costs,” said New York State Association of Counties (NYSAC) Executive Director Stephen J. Acquario. “We are working smarter and sharing services. Can we do more? Absolutely, but we need some assistance from the state to reduce local costs and the necessary tools to allow our members to operate more efficiently and effectively.”

In addition to their appeal to lower property taxes, the associations announced that they are creating a best practice program for local shared service initiatives taking place across the state. NYSAC, AOT, NYCOM and NYSSBA will lead a series of workshops and summits around the state to promote best practices in innovation and shared services.