Maureen O'Connell (Assemblywoman, New York State Assembly). Garden City Life. 2/25/2005.

We are writing to applaud the recent decision by Governor Pataki to appeal the recent Campaign for Fiscal Equity decision of State Supreme Court Justice Leland DeGrasse. This appeal will put the brakes on Long Island taxpayers footing the bill for the failures of city schools.

On Feb. 14, Judge DeGrasse upheld a court-appointed panel's recommendations and ordered the state of New York to provide New York City schools with at least another $5.63 billion in operating aid annually (phased in over four years) and at least $9.18 billion more in school construction funds over the next five years.

Although all schools throughout the state face rising costs and fiscal challenges, Judge DeGrasse's decision only applies to New York City schools. The residents of Nassau County and other counties throughout the state should not be forced to bear the tax burden of providing more than $23 billion in additional funds for New York City schools over the next five years. This decision would negatively impact all schools outside of New York City, as well as all taxpayers throughout the state.

A recent study conducted by the Manhattan Institute's Empire Center for New York State Policy calculated that a family with a household income of $65,000 would pay $570 more per year in state income taxes or pay about $3 more in sales tax on a $100 purchase to fund needy schools throughout the state. Under this sales tax scenario, the average rate would be 11 percent.

Long Island residents already pay some of the highest taxes in the nation. According to the Long Island Index, Long Island has the highest tax burden among all the states compared, raising approximately $2,445 per resident in property taxes in 2002. New Jersey was next highest with a per capita levy of $1,872 - 23 percent lower than Long Island. The average for New York State is $1,402 per capita - 43 percent lower than Long Island. On average, 62.5 percent of property taxes on Long Island support the local school districts.

In 2000, the residents of Long Island paid approximately $6.3 billion in non-business taxes and fees to New York State, primarily from the Personal Income Tax and the Sales and Use tax. In return, Long Island received only $3.3 billion from the state, including an estimated $1 billion in operating costs. This means that the balance of payment gap that Long Island residents incur with the state of New York is approximately $3 billion. This is unacceptable to Long Island taxpayers.

The appeal of the CFE case will stop the Robin Hood approach to Long Island taxpayers. In the meantime, we stand ready as elected leaders in the Assembly to find a statewide solution to funding of our local schools that is fair and equitable to everyone.

Assemblywoman Maureen O'Connell

Assemblyman David G. McDonough

Assemblyman Tom Alfano

Assemblywoman Donna Ferrara

Assemblyman Robert Barra

Assemblyman Joseph Saladino