Andrew Cuomo

Senate GOP falls short on permanent property tax cap, but isn’t giving up

Judy Sanders / Office of the Governor

In 2011, Gov. Andrew Cuomo persuaded state lawmakers to cap property tax hikes at 2 percent a year or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower. In 2015, the state Legislature renewed the property tax cap through 2020. And earlier this year, the state budget included new measures to bolster the law, including a requirement that local governments hold public hearings on ways to cut costs through shared services.

But state Senate Republicans still want to go a step further. This past session, they made another push to make the tax cap permanent, although it failed to advance in the Assembly.

“Prior to the property tax cap, communities throughout the state were faced with skyrocketing increases and uncontrolled local spending,” Flanagan said in January after the state Senate passed the permanent extension. “The cap has been enormously successful in stopping those unsustainable tax increases, and now we need to make sure the cap is permanent.”

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Although it has proven to be beneficial for Long Island homeowners, local government officials argue that it forces them to get rid of important programs and services. The tax cap has greatly affected schools in particular, with school district property taxes taking up more than 60 percent of property owners’ bills.

The baseline property tax cap is 1.26 percent for the 2017-18 fiscal year, an increase over the 0.12 percent cap from the prior year. Districts whose proposed spending plans go over their individual caps can override the tax cap with at least 60 percent support from voters.

This school year, all of Long Island’s 124 public school districts plan to stay within their property tax caps for the first time since the cap limit was implemented, according to the state comptroller’s office. Last year, nine schools districts on Long Island voted for cap overrides, and seven of those override attempts were successful.

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Since the cap was implemented, property tax increases have been below the long-term averages in every region except New York City, where the tax cap doesn’t apply, according to E.J. McMahon of the Empire Center for Public Policy.

And that’s a big reason why state Senate Republicans aren’t giving up on a permanent extension.

“Making the tax cap permanent brings additional certainty to businesses, taxpayers and families,” said Scott Reif, a spokesperson for Flanagan. “In the past, there were massive property tax increases. Putting the property tax cap in place slammed the door on those property tax increases so they’re more manageable. Our position has always been to make it permanent.”