Long Island teachers union OKs pay cuts

Long Island largest teachers’ union has agreed to give up next year’s raises and take temporary pay cuts.

The $11 million in givebacks by Brentwood teachers comes as school districts across Long Island are to release budget proposals today.

The concessions by the 1,400-member Brentwood Teachers Association will save more than 200 jobs and preserve students services like music classes and sports, Newsday reported.

Brentwood is the fifth teacher union on Long Island to agree to contract concessions. The five unions represent about 3,300 teachers. Long Island has more than 40,000 teachers.

via Long Island teachers union OKs pay cuts | recordonline.com.

Kingston District Teachers donate $1M to ease tax increase

Kingston teachers have donated $1 million from their health-care fund to lessen the school district’s tax bump next year.

The Kingston school board passed its 2010-11 budget Wednesday night by a vote of 7-2. The $140.4 million budget would keep spending flat, but the tax rate would increase by 4.7 percent. The budget calls for the elimination of 59.5 employee positions, including 25.5 layoffs.

No school programs would be cut. The public vote is May 18.

State aid is the main culprit behind the tax increase. Kingston will suffer a $4.8 million cut in state aid next year as New York tries to rein in a growing budget deficit.

Kingston’s tax increase would have been higher if not for two concessions by the Kingston Teachers’ Federation. The district will not increase its contribution to the teachers’ health fund next year, saving roughly $2.3 million, Superintendent Gerard Gretziner said. The teachers also will donate $1 million from their roughly $21 million health fund to support the budget.

“I am very grateful to the KTF and the Kingston Trust Fund for stepping up and supporting the budget,” Gretzinger told the school board.

A representative for the teachers union could not be reached Thursday.

Board President David Fletcher and member Marc Tack were the only members to vote against the budget.

“I believe even at a 4.7 percent tax increase, it might be a little more than taxpayers can afford,” Fletcher said. “This year was a perfect opportunity to look at programs and see which ones work, which ones don’t, and make some priority decisions.”

Source: Times-Herald Record

Orange-Ulster Boces budget for 2010-11 is $99 million

Tomorrow’s Board Meeting includes the vote for the ORANGE-ULSTER BOCES ADMINISTRATIVE BUDGET for 2010-11.

Resolved that the Board of Education, upon the recommendation
of the Superintendent of Schools approves the Board of Cooperative
Educational Services Administrative Budget in the amount of $4,326,329
for the 2010-11 school year.

The March 18th BOCES presentation:

$99 million for some 7,000 students. The Administrative Budget increase is 2.8% (tuition increase is 2.88%. Administrative increase is 14.61% including retirement).

Per student cost for next year is $9492

The budget is shared by all schools following the RWADA (Resident Weighted Average Daily Attendance).

Framework of a BOCES Administrative Budget

A BOCES Budget differs from a school district budget in several ways. The best way to
understand the BOCES budget is to look at it in pieces. There are three categories: the Administrative
Budget, the Capital & Rental Budget and the Program Budgets.

The Administrative Budget includes the personnel and related expenses for the Central
Administration. This includes the salaries and benefits for the District Superintendent, three Assistant
Superintendents, their clerical staff as well as office supplies and equipment. Other contractual expenses
include such services as auditing, liability insurance, retiree health, conferences and postage for the
Administrative operations.

The Administrative Budget receives its income from each component district using a State
Education Department-developed formula known as RWADA (Resident Weighted Average Daily
Attendance). Based upon student attendance (a measure of enrollment), each district pays a proportional
amount based on their share of the total RWADA. Therefore, larger districts pay a larger share while
smaller districts pay a smaller share of the Administrative costs.

The Administrative Budget is voted on each year by members of the component school districts’
Boards of Education. This year the administrative budget vote will be held on Thursday, April 22, 2010.

Dutchess and Ulster Property taxes

Joseph Spector
Journal Albany bureau

ALBANY — Dutchess County ranks 37th in the nation for highest median property taxes, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.

Dutchess property owners pay the 38th-highest percentage of income to property taxes in the nation, according to census data.

Ulster County is not far behind, ranking 39th in the nation for the percentage of income paid to property taxes and 59th for highest median property taxes.

In New York state, local property taxes are 79 percent higher than the national average, a 2008 state report found. Property-tax levies grew 60 percent between 1995 and 2005, more than twice the inflation rate, the state Comptroller’s Office said.

A Journal Albany bureau analysis of census data shows Dutchess ranked 10th among the 62 New York counties, with more than 5 percent of household incomes going to property taxes.

This comes as no surprise to residents who say they feel squeezed by the property taxes collected for schools, cities, towns, villages and the county, as well as fire districts and other taxing entities. Years of increasing property taxes have spurred anger at the polls and in public meetings as homeowners have watched property taxes rise and their homes’ value fall.

Politicians have pitched solutions, but none have been enacted, as the state fiscal crisis — a $9.2 billion deficit — has meant less aid coming to schools and municipalities. Local programs and jobs have been cut in police departments, highway garages and classrooms, and towns have rescheduled office hours.

Property owners still feel the bite of taxes.

Marlboro resident Carole Krause’s property taxes have more than doubled since she bought her 1,500-square-foot home in 2002 — from $3,500 to about $9,000, she said.

“Taxes have been pushed down to the middle class and the working poor, and communities are no longer viable,” she said.

Kraus, who heads a property-tax reform group from her Marlboro, Ulster County, home, said some neighbors have moved, but declining property values have kept others from doing so.

One neighboring house, which was assessed at about $450,000, was on sale for two years and ultimately sold for $295,000, she said.

Hopewell Junction resident Martin Boldrin has been retired for about 12 years. He said not only did his taxes keep going up, but he didn’t get a cost-of-living increase this year and doesn’t expect one next year.

“Prices of food keep going up and up and up,” he said, “and everything is putting a strain on my budget.”

Government needs to follow the same practice his and other families do, he said.

“If I only get so much money a month,” Boldrin said, “you have to budget and make your priorities.”

Still, it could be worse.

If you lived in Westchester County, you would pay the highest property taxes in the nation, with a median of $8,404 a year.

Residents of Westchester and Rockland counties ranked second and third in the state, respectively, in the amount paid for property taxes as percentage of household income, at nearly 8 percent, trailing only Nassau County in Long Island.

Factors weighed

New York’s property-tax burden — ranked annually at or near the top in the country — has long been a leading subject of complaint among residents, whether it’s at the local diner, the school board meeting or within the halls of the state Capitol.

But the high property taxes have become more pronounced as the economy sputtered, unemployment hit record highs and the housing boom went bust.

Those issues are now coupled with a state government on the brink of insolvency, which is forcing cuts in aid to schools and local governments. The state is grappling with a $9.2 billion deficit, and last month, it delayed $2 billion in payments to schools because it ran out of cash.

Meanwhile, the factors that drive high property taxes — health care costs, high public-sector pensions and salaries — show few signs of slowing. Local governments, for example, will need to pay 61 percent more to cover local pension costs in 2011 than they are paying now.

Fleeing New York

Critics say the problem is driving people out of the state. Between 2004 and 2008, New York lost more than $19.5 billion in taxable income because of people leaving the state, a review of Internal Revenue Service data shows.

But school officials point out the school-tax-levy increase in the current school year was 1.85 percent, the lowest in at least 10 years, and they are now laying off workers because of state cuts.

Last year the Tax Foundation, a national group, found New York’s state and local taxes per capita ranked sixth in the country, behind New Jersey, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Vermont.

A Siena College poll last month, meanwhile, found that 59 percent of voters did not support cuts to health care and education — even if it meant higher taxes. Still, a Siena poll in February found voters labeled reducing state spending and lowering taxes as their top two priorities for state government this year.

Solutions sought

Solutions to the state’s property-tax issues — from proposals to enact a cap, link taxes to household incomes or cut spending — will be a top issue in the governor’s race and elections across the state this year.

In an election year, lawmakers have offered some solutions. A school-property-tax cap would limit increases to 4 percent a year or to the inflation rate. A so-called circuit breaker would tie property taxes to household income. There are proposals for mandate relief for schools to help lower costs.

Gov. David Paterson has also pushed for a tax cap and a state-spending cap. But none of the proposals has been put into law as powerful special interests have vigorously opposed many of the measures.

Already, candidates are jockeying to be the state’s chief fiscal reformer. Last fall, an anti-incumbent sentiment swept through local elections — most strikingly in places like Westchester and Nassau counties, which by no coincidence have the highest taxes in the state.

Former Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi led a state property-tax commission and was a prominent voice on the issue. But he lost re-election last fall.

“I’m the one who has been fighting for property-tax relief, pretty much more than anybody, and even I got booted — because they didn’t want to hear me talk about it. They wanted results,” he said.

Voting with their feet

In Rosendale, Gregory Coster said a tax assessment last year on his 47-acre property doubled his property taxes, from $8,000 to $16,000. He tried to sell the property, which he says is undevelopable, but was unsuccessful. Now he’s fighting the assessment in court and gave 5 acres for free to neighbors — just to get the property off his tax rolls.

“It’s almost unconscionable the level of taxation. It’s so excessive,” he said.

Nearly 1.7 million people left New York between 2000 and July 2009 — the most of any state in the nation, census data last month showed.

The state’s population has grown only because of an influx of immigrants and births exceeding deaths. But in some upstate counties, including Erie, as much as 4 percent of their population has left over the decade.

As the price of homes fell in recent years, it made the tax burden even more apparent, economists said.

For years, the tax increases were masked because the price of homes shot up to record highs and a state property-tax rebate program, called STAR, that refunds homeowners for a portion of their school-tax bill.

The state’s median sales price for existing homes fell 15 percent between 2007 and 2009, according to the state Association of Realtors. For the first two months of this year, the median price rebounded slightly, from $199,000 to $225,000.

“You can do a lot of stuff when you’re prosperous, with property values going up and you have more jobs coming into the community,” said Kent Gardner, president of the Rochester-based Center for Governmental Research.

“But when the tide goes out, the expectations are still there and yet the tax base is not.”

School tax burden

School taxes accounted for 61 percent of all property taxes in 2007.

Between 1993 and 2006, state aid to schools also soared — from $12 billion to $22 billion, according to the Albany-based Rockefeller Institute for Government.

But the aid in the good economic times did little to slow the growth of school property taxes, which rose an average of 5 percent over the past six years, state records show. In the 2004-05 school year, for example, state spending on schools grew 6.3 percent — but school taxes grew by 8.3 percent.

The state Commission on Property Tax Relief, formed in 2007 to explore the problem, found school staff grew by more than 12,000 between 2000 and 2007, even as enrollment declined by nearly 16,000 students.

The state, the report found, spent $18,768 per student in the 2008-09 school year — the most in the nation. But, Suozzi pointed out, New York doesn’t have the highest-ranked system in the country.

“We spend too much money,” Suozzi said simply. “New York state spends more money per student than any state in the United States of America. So that would be great if we have the best results in the country, but we don’t.”

E.J. McMahon, executive director for the conservative Empire Center for New York State Policy, compared the state’s fiscal troubles to the late 1980s and early 1990s, when a housing bubble and higher assessments fueled higher taxes and education spending. But when that bubble burst, the state scaled back, as it seeks to do now.

“What happens is the more you give schools, the more they spend,” McMahon said. “They expand their base of their expenditures, they hire more people, they get more generous in their contracts.”

Schools said they are going to rely more on spending cuts this time, with predictions that 14,000 teaching jobs could be cut if $1.4 billion in state aid reductions are made in the 2010-11 state budget, which has yet to be approved by the Legislature. They warn the cuts will devastate classroom education.

They also point out that unlike other taxing entities, voters have to approve school budgets and do so every May. School groups have proposed taxing Wall Street and the rich as a way to raise more state revenue.

“School district leaders are doing their best to balance the needs of students and taxpayers. But over 70 percent of our budgets are devoted to personnel who provide programs and services for students,” Robert Bradley, interim executive director of the Council of School Superintendents, said in a statement.

About this series

New York’s property-tax burden continues to outpace the national average, putting more stress on homeowners in a poor economy. From now until the November elections, Journal’s Albany Bureau will explore the reasons for the state’s high property taxes and what candidates seeking office this year pledge to do about it.

Source: Poughkeepsie Journal

A note from taxnightmare.org

From our friends at taxnightmare.org   

“A blast from Taxnightmare.org….we regularly send “blasts” to the large property tax reform community and then it goes viral to their lists…and so on….this particular story so infuriated us that I am making sure it is broadcast as widely as possible…..pass it on as usual… gioia

 3/10/2010 An up-date       In all the confusion in the bubble we are still lobbying for our bills. Thanks to all your calls the legislature is at very least still talking property tax reform…we shall see…    Meanwhile Lt. Gov. Ravitch has floated a plan to keep NYS afloat-barely.    Albany is still closing its eyes to the necessity to cut its pet projects…they say they have no money for property tax relief and reform but they are still treating themselves royally..        ..and-worse, I just learned  (and blogged) that….    

Another startling and incomprehensible tax giveaway involves about 16 billion dollars every year which is rebated to stock brokers.

This is how it works: a penny and three quarters and on up (depending on the amount of the stock) is charged sellers as a tax on stock transfers and that amounts to 16 billion more or less.Then it is entirely rebated…

Wouldn’t you question why this amount of an already paid tax (supposedly) is given back to those who obviously aren’t in need of it …while the property tax is consuming 30 or 40 or 50 percent of householders’ incomes?? 

Moreover the tax giveback happens in a climate where services are cut to the bone, and the state is unable to pay its bills! I am disgusted with this kind of malfeasance and downright stupidity on Albany’s part. This is the very last straw in a horrible series of events in Albany.

I am asking all reformers to raise the roof with their “public servants”….call them all and tell them you want that 16 billion used for property tax reform and balancing the budget.…and for once I’ll say SCREAMING IS IN ORDER!!!

The names and contact numbers for Albany are in previous blogs.

http://www.taxnightmare.org/ 

Don’t leave out the Gov. and Lt. Gov. They must be put on notice.

Alleged “Nuzzling “ or “free tickets” got the media’s knickers in  a twist….THIS 16 BILLION IS REALLY THE SCANDAL WE SHOULD BE CONCERNED ABOUT.

Check out the facts on http://www.abetterchoiceforny.org ….at the bottom…a fact sheet 

gioia shebar
coordinator Taxnightmare.org
member Omnibus Tax Solution Consortium”

Salaries 08-09 updated

For school years 06-07 through 08-09, not including what newspapers call “fringe benefits” (an additional 25-30%) such as health insurance, The Times Herald Record (06-07) and SeeThroughNY.net (07-09)have released employees salaries which is public record.

To better understand how a large portion of your school tax dollars are being spent we have calculated year-to-year percentage increases based on data for the last three years. Note that some positions -not many- have changed. We have already heard excuses, justifications, and have almost been labeled as misleading but the numbers are out. We, the taxpayers are the employer.

Click on the new Salaries 08-09 tab, above.

Educators’ salaries up 5 percent

ALBANY — Salaries for teachers and administrators in New York rose 5 percent in the 2008-09 school year from the previous year, including a 19 percent jump for employees making more than $100,000 a year, according to a report Wednesday from the conservative Empire Center for New York State Policy.

The group said salaries rose to $14 billion, a $670 million increase, in the 2008-09 school year compared to the 2007-08 school year. An additional 5,022 employees earned $100,000 a year in 2008-09, up from 27,042 to 32,064.

“It shows that, one, school districts are locked into expensive contracts, but it also shows that they really haven’t done much to reduce their expenditures at a time when New York has plunged into a recession,” said Lise Bang-Jensen, a senior policy analyst at the Empire Center.

The group released a database of the gross pay of 262,088 teachers and administrators.

The database, along with other public-employee information, can be found at www.seethroughny.net.

We’ll make it easy for you, click on the “Salaries” tab to see the % increase.

School groups knocked the report, saying it doesn’t take into account that teachers and administrators have advanced degrees and that salary increases were often negotiated as part of union pacts years ago in better economic times.

Carl Korn, a spokesman for the New York State United Teachers union, said the median salary for a teacher is about $62,000 a year.

“Most teachers are paid fairly for the important work that they do, but many earn far less than what they would earn in the private sector and do a very, very important job,” he said.

Korn said the Empire Center is supported by the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, which is backed by wealthy donors from Wall Street. The union and other groups this week proposed a temporary higher income-tax bracket for people making more than $1 million and a partial repeal of a tax rebate on stock transactions to close an $8.2 billion budget gap for the 2010-11 fiscal year.

Source: Poughkeepsie Journal