Empire Center for
New York State Policy
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Fiscal Watch Memos
Payroll Watch Archive
October 31, 2012
The New York State Teachers’ Retirement System (NYSTRS) has just informed school districts across the state that their teacher pension contribution rates for the 2013-14 school year will rise from the current 11.84 percent to between 15.5 and 16.5 percent of salaries — which would translate into an additional taxpayer costs totaling $539 million to $686 million, based on the latest available teacher payroll figures.*
The higher contribution is payable in the fall of 2014. Depending on the final rate, up to 2.6 percentage points of the projected increase — or roughly $390 million — would not be subject to the base property tax levy cap of 2 percent for 2014-15 school budget years.
Here’s another way of looking at it: the next increase in teacher pensions could be enough, all by itself, to drive up property tax levies by up to 1.8 percent, in addition to the cap.
June 21, 2012
Just two school districts — out of nearly 700 in New York — will be limited to the new zero-tax hike contingency budget provision of the state’s new property tax cap law next year.
After failing to have either of two budget proposals approved by the electorate, the 1,500-pupil Cheektowaga-Sloan and the 355-pupil Oppenheim-Ephratah school districts will implement budgets for the 2013-14 school year using the current year’s tax levy, which equals no tax hike.
May 16, 2012
Forty-nine school districts* were seeking to override the state’s new property tax cap in yesterday’s school budget votes. Of those, our review of regional media coverage suggests 30 districts* passed an override, while 19 districts voted their budgets down. Seven of the proposed overrides failed to collect even 50 percent of the vote.
The table below shows each district along with unofficial vote tallies. (more…)
April 5, 2012
The Charlotte Valley School District in Delaware County had a tough employment situation on their hands until just last week. Former building principal Edgar Whaley had been a focus of controversy — going back at least a year. But that’s all settled now, thanks to a secret, lucrative contract settlement passed by the school’s board of education late last week.
At a special meeting, the board of education approved a $328,000 contract settlement with the School Administrators Association of New York State, which resulted in Whaley’s resignation. The parties also agreed not to disclose the terms of the agreement.
September 23, 2011
Time to raise their taxes?
The New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) and its lobbying partner, the Alliance for Quality Education (AQE), are holding news conferences around the state to complain about this year’s school aid cuts and about the state’s newly enacted local property tax cap. Yesterday’s NYSUT-AQE event in Albany featured an odd new twist on one of the groups’ favorite anti-cap arguments.
Today’s Albany Times Union offers this partial paraphrase of remarks by Martin Messner, president of the teachers’ union in the Schoharie School District, which was hit especially hard by Hurricane Irene:
Messner, who said he had to write down his words because he was exhausted from all the cleanup work after Tropical Storm Irene heavily damaged Schoharie, called the tax cap “mean-spirited” and said it will worsen the school budget season dramatically. He challenged any politician who supported the cap to come to Schoharie to see the destruction of virtually every business in town and more than 100 homes to see how many tax dollars would be gone.
August 26, 2011
Pension bills for New York’s local governments and school districts will rise by a combined total of at least $359 million as a result of the rate increase announced by the state comptroller this week, based on the latest available salary data from the state pension system. The increases are payable by February 2013, but most counties and municipalities will accrue the added cost next year, while schools will pay the higher rates in their 2012-13 budgets. (New York City, which has its own pension funds, is excluded from the total.)
The following table estimating the impact of 2012-13 increases tax-funded contributions to the New York State and Local Employees Retirement System (ERS) and Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS) updates the one in yesterday’s post here, which did not include schools.
July 13, 2011
Governors often veto legislation on narrow technical grounds, effectively leaving the door ajar for sponsors of bad bills to try again with a somewhat different approach. But that’s not the case with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s just-released Veto Message 23 of 2011, rejecting a union-backed measure that would have allowed school districts to cover a portion of their teacher pension costs with bonds.
Here’s the meat of the veto message:
When I took office earlier this year, I made a firm commitment to the people of this State that the days of irresponsible fiscal practices are over. I pledged to put an end to the unsustainable spending and rampant borrowing that has burdened New Yorkers with some of the highest property and school taxes in the nation. To that end, this year, with the help of the Legislature, we enacted historic and landmark legislation to cap local property and school taxes and reduce unfunded mandates on local governments.
The governor has rejected legislation that would undermine the intent of New York’s newly enacted property tax cap by allowing school districts to issue 15-year bonds to cover a portion of their rising teacher pension costs.
The Executive Chamber’s news release, in its entirety:
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today vetoed a bill that would have allowed school districts to issue new borrowing to cover short term expenditures, passing the bill to future taxpayers at a much higher cost.
The bill (A.6309/S.04067-A) would have allowed school districts- without voter approval- to borrow over $1 billion through bonds to cover current pension costs. The bonds plus interest would be paid off over 15 years, forcing taxpayers in some cases to pay back significantly more than the amount originally borrowed.
June 23, 2011
A property tax cap hasn’t even passed both houses yet (as of late Thursday), and already the state Senate has slipped through a bill that would allow school districts to circumvent it. The measure immediately was referred to the Assembly Ways & Means Committee, just a step away from a floor vote in the legislative session’s final hours.
An egregious fiscal abuse on its own terms, the bill (S.4067-A) would allow school districts across the state (except for New York City) to issue 15-year bonds to cover a portion of their rising teacher pension costs over the next several years — at least $1 billion in all, by one estimate. The measure was introduced two months ago at the behest of the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) as a way of reducing pressure on teachers to make contract concessions.
Sound familiar? The bill — sponsored by Sen. Martin Golden and Assemblyman Peter Abbate, both of Brooklyn — was the subject of a critical blog post here back in early April. At that time, Senate sources claimed it was going nowhere.
A version of the same bill targeting the Yonkers school district alone was introduced much more recently, as highlighted here a couple of days ago, but the Assembly version had been amended to “strike all (wording) after enact,” which is a sponsor’s way of putting on the brakes.
June 21, 2011
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A 2016 expiration date was, indeed, added to the agreed-upon property tax cap provisions of the monster omnibus bill now being cooked up in the Legislature. However, based on information provided in the past hour by the governor’s office and the Senate majority, the language still provides that the tax cap will remain in effect as long as there are state rent control laws for New York City. Which is (or might be) good news.
Why add any date, you ask? Apparently, since rent control is now set to sunset in four years, folks at the negotiating table thought taxpayers outside the city would find it more reassuring if the tax cap was given a later expiration date–even though, once again, the intent of the law is that the cap shall remain in full effect as long as the state has a rent control law. Which will be for a very long time. Which means the cap’s sunset date is essentially symbolic — a sort of painted scenery backdrop.
Perplexed? You’re not alone. Final judgements on what the Legislature and governor have wrought will have to await release of the actual bill language. Unfortunately, this being end of session, the Legislature may vote on the package before the ink has dried.