New York teachers union sues state over property tax cap

ALBANY, N.Y. Wed Feb 20, 2013 2:55pm EST

Related Topics

ALBANY, N.Y. Feb 20 (Reuters) - New York's largest teachers union on Wednesday sued to overturn the state's cap on annual property tax increases, claiming it perpetuates inequities between wealthy and poor school districts.

Under the cap, which took effect last year, school districts and local governments may raise property taxes each year by up to 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower. School districts, which are funded through property taxes and state aid, may override the cap if 60 percent of local residents vote to do so. The cap does not apply to New York City.

In a lawsuit filed in State Supreme Court in Albany, New York State United Teachers said that by limiting the amount of money school districts can raise, the tax cap violates the state's constitutional obligation to provide a "sound basic education" to all students.

"While, on its face, the tax cap gives the appearance of equality, in effect the tax cap locks in existing inequalities, and has a disproportionate, negative impact on the ability of the lower wealth districts and their voters to provide educational opportunity to school children," the complaint said.

The union is seeking to overturn the cap as it applies to school districts, not local governments.

A spokesman for Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a statement that most school districts have been able to maneuver within the cap, and that it has served to rein in skyrocketing property taxes statewide.

"This special-interest lawsuit is a fiscally irresponsible move that seeks to undermine the progress that has been made," said the spokesman, Richard Azzopardi.

The lawsuit also said the requirement that school districts secure 60 percent approval in budget votes to override the cap violates equal protection because it applies only to schools, and not to municipalities.

It said the 60 percent rule "arbitrarily and discriminatorily places a higher hurdle on school district voters who favor providing enhanced educational opportunities to school children."

The office of New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, who is listed as a defendant, did not immediately return a request for comment. A spokeswoman for the state Education Department declined to comment.

The case is New York State United Teachers v. New York, New York State Supreme Court, Albany County No. 963-2013.

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see
Comments (3)
Olmsted1822 wrote:
They really have no shame! “For the children” is truly the last refuge of a scoundrel.

Feb 20, 2013 3:30pm EST  --  Report as abuse
adeline531 wrote:
Here where I live, it seems property taxes go up every year on my 140 year old house. They are now at a yearly amount equal to the purchase price that my father-in-law paid for this house!!

Feb 20, 2013 3:48pm EST  --  Report as abuse
BCSaugerties wrote:
If they really wanted to spend the same amount on a child in Arbor Hill as they do in Bedford Hills then we had ought to finance the schools with a tax on income where every Wall Street master of the Universe , NY Met , Yankee etc etc down to the most basic entry level minimum wage earner pays a one or two percent education tax. The State would then fund the schools , pay the teachers , organize the administration into an efficient working non bloated organization knowing every New Yorker has an equal obligation for and an equal expectation of the NY State Education System . Until then it is just hundreds of separate school districts manipulating the system to their advantage where the Superintendent can often earn more than the Governor himself, while taxing people right out of their homes. Until someone steps up and equalizes the disparity, we will have a separate and very unequal educational system in NY that is discriminatory to those that do not live in the tonier sections of the state . Shame on you Mr Cuomo for not correcting this blatant injustice.

Feb 21, 2013 12:03am EST  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.