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School districts may face double burden of tax cap, state aid cuts

As New York state faces an unprecedented financial crisis, the state government is asking agencies across the board to make tough choices and accept deep cuts.

At the same time, state taxpayers are burdened with higher property taxes than most states in the nation. In order to address that burden, the state's Commission on Property Taxes issued a multifaceted report calling for, among other things, a cap on the amount school districts can increase property taxes from year to year.

So with decreased revenue from the state and the possibility of a property tax cap, where does that leave schools?

According to the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT), it leaves them in a precarious position.

School districts are going to face some harsh choices, said Carl Korn, chief press officer for NYSUT. They'll have to cut programs, increase class size, eliminate sports and after-school activities, get rid of extra services like tutoring, school psychologists, school social workers, things like that.

But Gov. David Paterson says the cuts are absolutely necessary in order to get the state back on track, and the Commission on Property Taxes says the tax cap and other measures are absolutely necessary to reduce the property tax burden.

The governor's budget proposal

The governor's executive budget proposal, released Dec. 16, calls for deep cuts to education. The budget also includes cuts to health care, increases in tuition to SUNY schools, an increase in dollars allocated to welfare, layoffs of state employees, reforms to the state's STAR and Empire Zone programs and other cuts and changes.

Paterson said New York faces the largest budget deficit in state history - $1.7 billion currently, with another $13.7 billion in deficit in the coming budget year.

New York is facing a historic fiscal crisis, Paterson said. Given the magnitude of this problem, every area of state spending, including education, will have to experience reductions.

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