TEN LEGISLATIVE IDEAS TO REDUCE SCHOOL TAXES

( 10/12/05 )

 

ALLOW ONLY ONE BUDGET vote, not two, as allowed under current law. (Advantage: School Boards will be under more pressure to come up with a realistic budget the first time, knowing there is no second chance. It will also encourage more voter participation since today many voters are discouraged knowing there will be another vote.)

OPPOSED BY: School Boards, Teacher Unions and certain parent groups.

 

When a Budget is defeated, it should be frozen at the prior year's level , with allowances only for changes in debt service, and not allowed to increase by 3 to 7%, as permitted under current law. Exceptions could be made for inflation and enrollment changes in low spending districts (i.e., SD's below avg. per pupil costs).

(Advantage: currently school budgets can rise by 3 to 7 percent even when defeated; this is often twice the inflation rate and this discourages voter participation because it makes the budget vote far less meaningful---e.g., voters are voting on an increase of 6 % vs. 4 %, rather than 6 % vs. 0%)

OPPOSED BY: School Boards, Teacher Unions and certain parent groups.

 

Change the Voting Day for School Trustees from the third Tuesday in May to the General November Election Day, and change Trustee terms from July 1 st -June 30 th to January 1 st -December 31 st .

(Advantage: This would greatly increase voter participation and voter beliefs on an issue that determines the bulk of their property taxes; today typical turnouts are in the range of 15 to 20 %; in November, turnouts are typically 35-70 %;)

OPPOSED BY: School Boards, Teacher Unions and certain parent groups.

 

Change or drop Wicks Law which prohibits school districts from engaging a single contractor for large school construction projects.

(Advantage: most school district superintendents favor repeal of WICKS law, as it would give them better control of, and substantially reduce, costs.)

OPPOSED BY: Construction unions.

 

Require School District employees to contribute to their pensions and eliminate the inclusion of overtime in the calculation of teacher and other government employee pensions . Few private employers include overtime in calculating pensions.

OPPOSED BY: Teacher and other school employee unions.

 

Change the entitlement to lifetime health benefits currently based on 5 years service and age 55 to 15 years service and age 65 or 20 years service and age 60.

(Advantage: It is a common practice for today for people to work as aides, custodians or teachers for 5 years and then retire with lifetime health benefits at age 55. In addition, school districts today typically require teachers to pay only 5 percent of individual health insurance premiums, and 20 percent for family plans. This should be gradually increased.)

OPPOSED BY: Teacher and other school employee unions.

 

Replace perpetual tenure with tenure to be renewable every 5 years.

(Advantage: would facilitate replacement of ineffective teachers, and thereby improve educational quality and reduce costs).

OPPPOSED BY: Teacher unions.

 

Change the way the "prevailing wage" is calculated in school construction (and all state construction projects) from simply being defined as the "union wage" to a weighting of wages paid to all workers in a category--union and non-union.

(Advantage: This would reduce school construction costs annually by hundreds of millions of dollars, as the difference between a "union" wage and a non-union wage is often significant; e.g., a union wage, which includes benefits, is often $60-$70 /hr vs. $30-$35 /hr for non-union wages.)

OPPOSED BY: Construction unions.

 

Eliminate the provision in the TriBorough Amendment which requires all provisions in current teacher contracts to remain in force pending the signing of any new contract. Instead this should be modified to cover only salaries, but not other benefit (e.g., health insurance) costs or any other contractual provisions.

(Advantage: this would increase pressure on teachers to come to an agreement; today they are under no pressure whatsoever to agree to a new contract, and instead all pressure is on school boards facing increasingly anxious parental concerns that "angry" or "unhappy" teachers will not perform as well as they should.)

OPPPOSED BY: Teacher unions.

 

Pass the NYS Educational Tax Incentives Act (2005: S.3103/A.6145), which provides for a 50% tax credit for any contribution to any public school, public school educational foundation, private school scholarship foundation funding scholarships for students in two or more schools, and for teacher out-of-pocket expenses, with a limit on such contributions set at $500 per individual or couple and $35,000 for any public or private corporation.

(Advantage: The NYS Dept. of Taxation estimates that after the first year $940 million would be donated annually, with an estimated $750 million going to public schools, and $190 million going to private school scholarship funds. Even if the state then reduced state aid to education by the full amount of revenues lost ($470 million), the public schools would still have received $280 million more ($750 M less $470 M) than otherwise. The $190 million donated to scholarship funds would enable 20,000 low income students (assuming half the scholarship money is used for low income students to receive scholarships averaging $5000 to shift out of failing public schools into private schools, thereby enabling those public schools to spend the dollars saved on the remaining students. This is a clear win-win for everyone----parents, students, taxpayers and teachers.)

OPPPOSED BY: Teacher unions.

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                                   ALL OF THE ABOVE CAN BE ENACTED TODAY BY THE NYS LEGISLATURE.

 

WHILE THE FOLLOWING WOULD BENEFIT ALL PARENTS, STUDENTS AND TAXPAYERS, AND IS PERMISSIBLE UNDER THE U.S. CONSTITUTION, THERE IS A POSSIBLE PROBLEM WITH THE NYS CONSTITUTION'S " BLAINE AMENDMENT," WHICH PROHIBITS ANY DIRECT OR INDIRECT AID TO RELIGIOUS SCHOOLS:

 

•  Legislation providing for full parental choice in education, using either refundable tax credits or educational scholarships/vouchers would save NY state taxpayers billions of dollars per year. Based on a 1991 study done by a NY State Senate Advisory Commission, a full parental choice system would save NY taxpayers $4 billion/year. Today, that would be over $6 billion/year saved!

OPPOSED BY: Teacher unions and individuals hostile to religious schools.