Strong Schools, Lower Property Taxes Part of Plan for Recovery

By State Sen. Darrel J. Aubertine

Over the last few weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to attend community events throughout Oswego, Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties, and meet with constituents to discuss many of the issues we face here in New York State. At the forefront of many conversations is the need for good jobs, but with that, two factors in creating those jobs, property taxes and education.

Now, with action by Congress we have the opportunity to secure another $600 million in federal aid for schools. That will mean $6.27 million for Oswego County, $3.8 million for Jefferson County, and $4.4 million for St. Lawrence County. In the next couple of weeks I will be in Albany to take action to accept this funding as we have for billions of stimulus funding that has gone to schools and construction projects throughout the state.

This federal funding will protect jobs and in strengthening our education system, it bolsters our overall efforts to create a business climate that also attracts new jobs. Economic development programs like Power for Jobs and the new Excelsior Program are important, but so is the fact that general fund spending by the state decreased in this budget and it was balanced without regressive taxes on beverages, energy and healthcare.

Along with the budget, I voted with my Senate colleagues on the last day of session for a property tax cap to limit tax increases. This was the third time in three years I voted to rein in property taxes, yet the Assembly has still not acted. The cap alone is not the answer. However, it is one of four things we need to do to control and reduce property taxes, which threaten so many homeowners and businesses in the region.

This latest version of a tax cap was not the more complete legislation I voted for in March. This more comprehensive bill also included a circuit breaker, which caps property tax bills based on a percentage of our income. This two part approach was passed with legislation that would relieve schools and municipalities of unfunded mandates, giving localities more say on how to most efficiently educate our children.

The fourth part deals with existing school aid formulas, which have been skewed over the last several decades, despite court cases calling this distribution unfair to low wealth school districts in rural and urban parts of the state. Distributing the limited resources of state funding more fairly to provide low-wealth rural districts with adequate state aid is important to reducing our property tax burden.

Providing students with the resources they need, while reducing the property tax burden is important. These efforts are all part of the solution for restoring our Upstate economy and ensuring the jobs we need are here for years to come.