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Islanders Speak Out on Property Tax Crisis

March 7, 2008

Hauppauge, NY - New York property taxes are going through the roof, and Long Islanders are offering their suggestions for a reprieve. Opinions and advice were gathered this week at a hearing of the New York State Commission on Property Tax Relief.

Nassau Tax Assessor Harvey Levinson and Suffolk Legislature chair William Lindsay want schools to be funded through state income taxes rather than completely through property taxes. Lisa Tyson with the Long Island Progressive Coalition says some state help would make the taxation more fair, since property taxes don't necessarily correspond to residents' real income.

"School taxes account for 60 percent to 70 percent of our property tax bill, and they are going up and up every year. We really want the state to pay more for schools through the income tax, because it's based on people's ability to pay."

The conservative Manhattan Institute is recommending a property tax cap, while Commission chair Thomas Suozzi says income tax allocations could not entirely replace property taxes for school funding.

Tyson contends a property tax cap would degrade education quality because schools would run into budget trouble. She's proposing an income tax increase for people in the top three percent, along with a compromise she calls a "tax circuit breaker."

"Right now, a lot of people on Long Island and throughout New York State are paying too much on their property taxes, compared with their income. A 'circuit breaker' would protect people. You should not be paying 10, 15 percent of your income to property taxes, and what that would do is give tax relief."

The Commission on Property Tax Relief is scheduled to hold five more hearings across the state before presenting its recommendations to Governor Eliot Spitzer in May.

Robert Knight/Craig Eicher, Public News Service - NY