New York State United Teachers has received mixed but predictable reactions to the lawsuit it filed yesterday that challenges the state’s annual property-tax cap. The union — the largest in the state — claims the cap on property-tax levies is arbitrary and perpetuates funding inequities in schools. The cap, adopted in 2011, was championed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
The state Business Council, the National Federation for Independent Business in New York and Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos of Nassau County blasted the lawsuit in statements yesterday, while the New York State AFL-CIO praised the union.
“People have a right to go to court. God bless America. God bless our system,” Cuomo said yesterday, Gannett’s Albany Bureau reported. “I think the property-tax cap has been one of the best things that we’ve done in the state of New York.”
Mike Durant, state director for the National Federation of Independent Business, said the lawsuit “threatens the progress that has been made in New York and shows a complete lack of recognition of our state’s fiscal issues.” The property-tax cap, which is 2 percent or the level of inflation, whichever is lower, has always needed to be paired with “meaningful mandate relief,” he said.
The Business Council supports the property-tax cap and believes it will be upheld in the courts, said Heather Briccetti, president and CEO of the group. “We see the cap as an essential protection for both individual and business taxpayers against extremely high and fast-rising property taxes,” she said. “It sends a signal to citizens and business leaders that the state is serious about controlling the cost of government and rebuilding our private sector economy.”
Mario Cilento, president of the AFL-CIO in the state, said the union supports NYSUT’s lawsuit. “The property tax cap has done nothing but tie the hands of school districts at the exact wrong time,” he said. “NYSUT’s decision to challenge the imposition of our state’s undemocratic and arbitrary cap should be welcome news to students, parents and the general public whose rights and local control have been taken away under its provisions.”
NYSUT is challenging the constitutionality of the property-tax cap, which the union says limits the ability of school districts and taxpayers to determine local education spending.
Richard Iannuzzi, president of NYSUT, said in a statement yesterday that the cap is “exacerbating glaring inequities in funding while pushing many school districts to the brink of educational and financial insolvency.”