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Pending Tax Cap Will Hurt Kids, Needs Fixing

Cecilia T. Absher is a Larchmont resident and mother of two children. Although she has worn many hats in the community, including member and president of the Mamaroneck School Board of Education, she is writing as a parent - the oldest is going into 7th grade.

I imagine most people have heard about the proposed legislation that will cap school tax levies at the lower of 2 percent or the Consumer Price Index. Having reviewed the legislation , I believe it is seriously flawed and will devastate schools and communities. Albany needs to go back to the drawing board on this.

Over 6,700 voters throughout New York State have recently raised their objections to the ill-conceived and dangerously harsh tax cap proposal by signing the petition at www.nyspta.org. They recognize that the legislation would wreak devastation on our public education system in just a few years. And the bill's purpose will not, in fact, be served. New York will not be more "competitive," it will, instead, have inferior schools and a less prepared work force. Homeowners will see their property values plummet and small business owners in local communities will lose their client base. Now is the time for Albany to step up to meet the real challenges and address the cost-drivers behind the high taxes.

I oppose this legislation because it:

• Would allow a minority – just 40 percent - of voters to block a school district's proposed tax levy increase if it is greater than the cap. This is undemocratic. A vote on a school budget should remain a majority decision

• Would not have an upward adjustment for inflation and would not exclude unfunded state mandated costs such as pension and health plan contributions, costs due to enrollment increases, payments related to assessment reductions and other rapidly rising costs. This is very harsh, especially since Albany has not provided necessary mandate relief to lower costs .

• Would require school districts to have a zero tax levy increase if the budget vote fails. This is simply untenable when so many costs are outside of districts' control. Schools need a proper contingency budget provision like they have now.

Communities deserve to be able to decide how much they support their schools. They do not need a draconian tax cap, but rather more funding and true mandate relief. They need to have the chokehold taken off them, which is caused by oppressive employment rules, pension and healthcare cost escalation and state/federal unfunded requirments that devour school budgets.

Albany must have the political will to address the core, systematic problems. That's what they were elected to do. Our children deserve real reform and responsible law-making.

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