To the Times of Ti:
I want to commend Superintendent John McDonald and the Ticonderoga school board for speaking out concerning the need for funding reform for our schools. (I refer specifically to the Oct. 19 article by Fred Herbst in the Times of Ti e-mail edition.)
You are correct in citing the serious shortcomings of the existing property tax system as the method of funding education in our community and throughout the Adirondacks. Their support for a special education fund to relieve the property tax burden will certainly help call the attention of legislators in Albany to the continuing seriousness of the problem. Many of these legislators seem to have erroneously believed that the new 2 percent tax cap would somehow miraculously control the ever-increasing costs plaguing schools, towns and counties alike.
I thank the board for speaking up.
Sadly, however, I fear that the state may be loathe to cough up additional funding for such a special education fund for Adirondack schools, any more than they do now to cover their unfunded mandates. Sometimes it seems that schools with declining enrollments (like those in the Adirondacks) are under some kind of special attack from Albany. Hopefully, I am wrong and there will be support for your idea. I wish it success and am glad to lend my support for the idea.
In addition to the support for the special education fund reform, I hope that both the Ticonderoga school board and the Ticonderoga town board will express support for statewide property tax relief through an income-based “circuit breaker,” such as one that has been proposed by our own state legislators for several years. Many residents in our community and elsewhere in the Adirondacks know that property taxes often bear no relation to current income. The fact is that many families face tough financial burdens after workers lose their jobs, become ill or retire. People with reduced or fixed incomes may be forced to sell a home they have owned for many decades, simply because they can no longer afford their ever-increasing annual property taxes. It is estimated that nearly 700,000 New York households with incomes less than $100,000 pay at least 10 percent of their income in property taxes on their home — an unsustainable burden.
“Circuit-breaker” tax relief legislation would effectively limit an individual family’s property tax burden on their primary residence. Depending on the legislation, a family’s property tax would be limited to no more than perhaps 9 percent of their gross family income, plus a modest amount of the remaining property tax over that amount. The circuit-breaker relief would apply to renters as well as home owners, would cover town and county taxes as well as school taxes, and would be confidentially issued as an individual refund on a resident’s New York state income tax return after the family has paid the full amount of the property tax owed to their local governments and school district. No one in the community would pay a higher property tax as a result of the circuit breaker. The full circuit-breaker relief reform could be phased in over a period of four or more years to eligible families who had owned their homes for perhaps five years or more.
People can check out the web site, www.NYSpropertytaxreform.org, for additional information about one circuit breaker relief model. The web site contains an automatic calculator to enable someone to find out what their property tax relief would be under one piece of legislation, depending on figures entered for property taxes and household income.
I hope that the Ticonderoga school board and town board will support the circuit breaker as a model for relieving the property tax crisis facing many families.
Richard Wray, Ticonderoga