Peter Brothers. Albany Times Union. 4/2/2005.
Your recent editorial "The bill comes due," regarding the school aid lawsuit, hits home with a lot of us. I could not have said it better than when you mention "But they didn't do their jobs, they talked and dithered, argued and postured. ... But no action," referring to Gov. George Pataki, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno.
These individuals are supposed to work for us and the job is not getting done. It is important to note that New York City had an equalization rate of under 24 percent for the 2002-03 school year, according to the state Office of Real Property Services Web site (http://www.orps.state.ny.us).
During the same year for which the latest figures are available from the state Education Department, New York City schools had a budget of $12.9 billion and $5.87 billion, or 45 percent of their budget, came from state sources. Only $5.88 billion came from local sources. The remainder came from other sources. The Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit will mean that New York City will receive much more than 45 percent of its school budget from state sources.
It is appalling that Silver expects upstate New York to pay the bill for the education of his constituents' children. New York City might have a heavy fiscal burden for other services like Medicaid (more reason to have this program funded at the state level instead of partial funding through property taxes). However, upstate residents share the same burden, even more because many of our communities are at nearly full value because of reassessments, and this has resulted in less state aid for many communities.
New York City taxpayers are willing to pay a lot of money for such services as trash removal, public safety and transportation, but spend a nominal amount compared to other municipalities in the state for education. They need to pay their fair share, instead of looking to upstate residents to bail them out.
It is also important to know that with Pataki's hometown of Peekskill having less than a 5 percent equalization rate as the result of not reassessing for decades, the school district gets 62 percent of its funding form state sources.
In comparison, the city of Albany, having been recently reassessed at full value, gets only 36 percent of its school budget from state sources, or $55 million. Albany school taxpayers had to pay $82.5 million or 55 percent of the budget through property taxes, compared with New York City's 45 percent. There are more disparities throughout the state.
It is true that the formula for distributing aid corrects some of the disparities, but the system is flawed. Politicians who say that "everything is equalized" to perfect the inequities are more than stretching the truth.