Niagara USA Chamber Says School Districts Must Stay within Tax Cap

Urges Voters to Hold the Line

The Niagara USA Chamber today called on voters across Niagara County to support their school budget if it stays within the property tax cap but defeat those that look to exceed it when they cast their votes on Tuesday, May 21st

“The Chamber has consistently been a supporter of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s 2% property tax cap since he envisioned it in 2011,” said Kory Schuler, Director of Government Affairs for the Niagara USA Chamber.  “Although it remains a challenge to stay within the cap, we urge all districts to examine their budgets in earnest and ask voters to support those budgets that follow the cap.”

According to the Chamber and the State School Boards Association, only 27 school districts out of over 700 are asking their voters to override the tax cap.  One local school budget, Lewiston-Porter, is part of that minority number.  Although not as dramatic as other school district budgets that sought to exceed the cap last year, an increase over the cap is still worrisome. 

“This isn’t a case of a frivolous increase and we recognize the difficulty school board members have in making these types of decisions,” said Schuler.  “But businesses and residents cannot simply pay more in taxes. 

The tax cap actually establishes a tax levy limit for each school district.  This levy allows schools to increase their property tax levy from one year to the next by 2% or the rate of inflation, whichever is less.  There are exemptions that would allow a school district to raise their rate to more than the 2 percent, including “brick and mortar” development, employee pension above a certain rate, and some court orders.  If a school district proposes a budget above the 2 percent cap a supermajority of 60 percent of voters is required for passage. 

Schuler said the Chamber agrees with school districts and local governments in their call for state mandate relief to help lower costs but that cannot be an excuse for property tax increases.

“We are paying some of the highest taxes in the nation and this hampers growth, resulting in population loss and fewer businesses.  The domino effect of that is there are fewer taxpayers shouldering a greater tax burden which is no longer possible.  This tax cap cannot be viewed as an anti-education, anti-teacher, or anti-children campaign.  It is truly a way to make us more competitive again as a region and grow.”   

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Kory Schuler
Directory of Government Affairs
Niagara USA Chamber

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