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Teachers’ Union Plans Lawsuit to Stop Tax Cap

In interview, president of NYSUT, says legal challenge coming, possibly around Jan. 1.

The head of a state teachers' union said in a radio interview that the state-imposed property tax levy cap will be challenged in court.

“Educationally it’s a resounding failure, and it needs to be addressed," said Richard Iannuzzi, president of NYSUT, appearing on The Capitol Bureau show on radio station WCNY. "It needs to be addressed and it will be addressed in the courts by NYSUT at some point, probably not that far off.”

Iannuzzi said that a challenge is being worked on now but has not been filed.

“We are preparing a case and when we’re satisfied that we’ve addressed all the issues that we want to address, we will go to court.”

Responding, host Susan Arbetter asked whether the lawsuit would come before Jan. 1, 2013.

Iannuzzi replied, “[I] don’t know, but I would say that’s fairly close to where we would probably wind up.”

The issues that NYSUT would argue against involve whether the cap is democratic; Iannuzzi noted the 60-percent supermajority needed by public vote to override it. Another issue would involve whether the cap contributes to funding inequity between school districts, he said in the interview.

The cap limits the tax levy, which represents the amount of revenue that a school district, municipality, county or other special district, can raise for a given budget cycle year over year. The limit is the lesser of 2 percent or the rate of inflation, although there are exemptions for things such as some pensions costs and changes to the property tax base.

The cap, however, does not limit the tax rate, with is the amount of money paid by taxpayers per $1,000 of assessed value. The rates can fluctuate depending on changes to the assessed property value of the tax base, or in the case of multi-town entites such as school districts, because of the equalization rate formula used to apportion the costs among constituent municipalities.

The cap has caused frustration among school district and municipal officials locally, who feel that is presents a financial burden while they are not getting relief from expensive state mandates, such as pension contributions and required busing for private school students. While school districts need a supermajority of voters in a referendum, other forms of local government only need a 60-percent threshold from their elected boards to override the cap.

The cap was signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a New Castle resident and Democrat, in June 2011, shortly after it passed the state legislature.

School districts and local governments are currently in their first fiscal years under the cap. Ninety-two percent of school district proposed budgets for 2012-13 that were at or under the cap, according to the New York State School Boards Association.

David October 04, 2012 at 05:57 PM
I'll agree with you this far. We are going too far already in some ways with evaluation. Making individual teacher evaluations available to the public (which they basically are now; a parent can find out a teacher's evaluation and then post it on the internet without legal repercussion) is abusive and un-called for. What other low or medium level employee puts up with that? On the other hand, the cost of these teachers is ridiculous. I don't need any more examination and thinking to know that, and all this time they get more of our money. Mike I think you're just playing the delaying game. No more delays. Cut now however it can be done, maybe put some back later. Better to cut too much than too little; there's plenty of unemployed people with good professional skills who could value, maybe a little more or a little less than current staff, who would work for much less.
David October 04, 2012 at 06:00 PM
Aidan, saying that I am not a teacher or lack that particular experience does not satisfy the request I made of you: to show how I am not a careful reader. You failed at that, because the evidence is not there. You offered the idea of someone spending a week in a classroom. One needs to get background-checked and then hired to some such position before that's even possible. (How do I know that? Maybe I have some relevant experience???) So what you "offer" is impossible, isn't it?
Harold1968 October 04, 2012 at 06:18 PM
Pauline, Oh boy.....Letting teachers run things is probably the worst idea I ever heard. Talk about letting the fox guard the hen house. And speaking about teachers buying school supplies for their students...I hear that comment so often it makes me sick. If 80% of our school taxes didn't go towards teacher compensation there would be plenty of money for school supplies. In Westchester we have teachers making $150,000, yes I said $150,000, in annual compensation. The New York taxpayers and their children are being ripped off. It's criminal. America pays teachers more than any other country in the world and our children continue to fail miserably in comparison to the rest of the world. Here's a novel idea - We pay teachers a very generous 12 month salary so let's get them to teach our children for more than eight months of the year. The average taxpayer works 12 months each year, right? Let's get rid of the ridiculous union rules that prevent us from kicking out bad teachers. Teachers retire at 57. The average taxpayer will retire at 67. How is that fair? Let's get teachers retiring at 67 like the rest of us - or at least have them collect their generous guaranteed pensions when they turn 67. Public sector employees are the real privileged class in America. The taxpayers are a bunch of suckers paying for public sector employees to retire in their 50's with guaranteed pensions and health coverage while the average taxpayer will retire at 67 with no financial guarantees.
Harold1968 October 04, 2012 at 06:31 PM
David, Aidan likes to tell people they should try being a teacher. He actually told me I wouldn't last five minutes as a teacher. That's somewhat puzzling to me because we've never met and he knows nothing about me. Maybe to last more than five minutes as a teacher you need to be able to make rash and uninformed opinions of your students as well. God help his students if he is a teacher.
pauline schneider October 04, 2012 at 07:10 PM
Harold, would you agree to such pay restrictions for male dominated union jobs as well? You know, sanitation, police, fire, highway dept, etc. where they also get amazing health benefits and retirement plans that treat them as human beings, not the slaves you sound like you would make us all. Or is the education of our youngest citizens because it is primarily women's domain, an easy target? As for the Fox guarding the hen house, educators calling the shots works in other countries (in case you missed the memo, we're not doing so great here). Do you not feel confident that Americans have the capability of doing the right thing by our kids? I find your lack of faith disturbing.... So to speak...
Billy October 04, 2012 at 07:21 PM
Did I see George Latimer in that picture with Gov. Cuomo? Nope, again he's MIA. Vote Bob Cohen on 11/6! We need someone who cares enough to support issues like this and you're not going to get that from Latimer, he's in deep with the teacher's union. You know the people suing NY State over the tax cap. Thanks but no thanks!
Aidan October 04, 2012 at 07:41 PM
Seconded. Latimer's liberal junk is killin' us all.
Harold1968 October 04, 2012 at 07:47 PM
Pauline, Absolutely. ALL public sector employees should start receiving pension benefits when they turn 67. Better yet - they all need to be switched to 401K plans so the taxpayers financial obligation ends when the employee retires. There is a poster on these boards that is a retired public sector employee. (He has always been a gentleman in our exchanges and I'm not going to mention his name) He is in his late 40's and has an annual pension of over $80,000. He put in his 20 years and now the taxpayer will be paying his $80,000+ pension and benefits for the next 40 years. (God willing) This isn't financially sustainable as Greece has shown us. This is only one instance where public sector unions are sticking it to the taxpayer or hurting our children with the help of their bought and paid for politicians.
GC October 04, 2012 at 07:52 PM
I'll go one step further Pat. It's the unions that are holding the good teachers back. All the good teachers that the union thugs claim to champion to the public's face are as frustrated by the union apparatus as we are. They come to the realization that "you can't fight city hall" (how telling a cliche) and it's just easier for them to go along with it.
Pat Godfrey October 04, 2012 at 08:06 PM
Need to find somebody who is willing to take the unions on. The future of our children depend on it. It can happen. Wisconson was a victory against the Unions. They spent millions of dollars to not have to pay into there own pension and medical. You believe that, a small percentage to. The unions spent millions on adds then they sent union thugs over to shut down the state legislature. When that didn't work they put together a plan to vote the governor out of office before his 4 year term was up. All those ploys by the union failed. The people won out and got the unions to have to make some give backs, if you can call paying into your own pension and medical a give back.
GC October 04, 2012 at 08:09 PM
That will never happen under Prince Andrew's reign.
David October 04, 2012 at 10:45 PM
Our inner cities might have more intractable educational challenges than the inner cities of other countries; some countries and major cities may not even have what we call "inner city". I don't hold teachers necessarily responsible for the issues of the inner city; frankly I have little or no relevant experience to assess that, but it seems likely that much is beyond the control of a good teacher. I do expect them to be able to teach in more favorable environments, and I believe they are paid far above what they could command in the market (if they did not have their unionized jobs) and would like to cut that pay down to size, for the good of the communities hosting those schools.
stephany October 12, 2012 at 06:24 PM
simple answer is 1 tax bill=one vote--time budgets to coincide with tax due dates-submit taxes with vote -check box or whatever--allow 1/2-1/8 votes but total cannot exceed 1 total vote. give the single senior vote the same the same punch as the house full of kids 18+ old kids and multiple adults all voting gimme gimme gimme---MORE apt dwellers etc--1 TOTAL vote per apt. My personal opinion is that apt dwellers should pay separate school taxes+ slightly decreased rent. having to write that check may convince some of them to cool it on the auto yes vote
Francis T McVetty October 12, 2012 at 06:53 PM
@ lillian philbin, school classes are too large. I remember parochial school with 45-50 in a class and we still got a better education than those attending public school.That was back in the 50' & 60's. The class size argument is a bogus one. Decreasing class size only increases the numbers of teachers needed, and you wonder why the teachers unions want that?
Francis T McVetty October 12, 2012 at 07:05 PM
Kevin[ I want as much accountability in contractors, lawyers, mechanics, plumbers, business workers, etc] There is already accountability, it is called the free enterprise system. If you are good then you will stay in business, not so good, you are gone. Can't so that with the teachers. We spend more money on education than any other country except one. We are ranked in the world at 18th , and that is total ranking . Our math and science scores are near the bottom of a separate listing. Just what are we getting for our buck? Something has to change, and it certainly is paying the teachers MORE. That hasn't worked, has it?
Aidan October 16, 2012 at 10:52 AM
Harold ... I made a mistake. Two minutes. Tops.
Harold1968 October 16, 2012 at 01:46 PM
Aidan, I get it. I couldn't hack it as a teacher. Thanks.
David October 16, 2012 at 03:21 PM
I really what happens in the classrooms where Aidan taught, where things can go to heck in 2 minutes. Or five minutes. It's not exactly a war zone, well I cannot speak from experience about inner city schools, but even there they ... are ... just ... kids. Harold I bet you would do fine if you've ever done much public speaking and are willing to prepare a bit and improvise as you go.
Harold1968 February 21, 2013 at 03:56 AM
We pay a ridiculous amount of taxes while our children are failing miserably compared to the rest of the world. Teachers retire in their 50's with guaranteed pensions, have five months off each year, are tenured so they can't lose their jobs, receive TWO raises (contract and STEP) each year, and pay almost nothing for health insurance. The average taxpayer retires at 67 with no financial guarantees, has one month of vacation, receives pay cuts and no raise on a regular basis, pays thousands of dollars each year for health coverage, and can get fired if they don't perform. I've had it with the teachers and their unions. Wake up NY taxpayers and parents!! New York needs to raise the retirement age for teachers to 67, switch them all to 401K plans, require they pay their fair share for health coverage, have real annual reviews where the deadweight gets fired, add two months to the school year and eliminate STEP raises. Forget about the "1%", public union employees are the real privileged class. Taxpayers and parents have had it with the cozy relationship between the unions and their paid-for politicians. Every taxpayer needs to ask their representative if they are pro-taxpayer OR pro-union. If they say anything other than pro-taxpayer you need to vote them out. There are three hardworking taxpayers for every union employee in New York. We have the votes and we have the power. If MICHIGAN can become a right-to-work state then so can New York. Enough is enough with these unions.
Spencer Benedict February 21, 2013 at 12:10 PM
Very well said Harold.
jeff meyer February 21, 2013 at 12:18 PM
Harold, The reason that workers decide to unionize is so that extremist like you don't decide to change agreements on a whim. Your "requests" will not happen. Get use to that. The average NYS public employee earns 40k a year. Hardly a privileged class. On a whole NYS teachers do a fine job and it is a profession worthy of respect. I happen to be pro-union and pro-taxpayer. That being said I don't fit into your black or white extremist criteria. Lucky for me. Jeff Meyer Tuckahoe, NY
Mike February 21, 2013 at 01:34 PM
Take a look at site below and the seethroughny.com site and find actual salary data; not a commenters opinion http://government-pay.findthedata.org/d/e/NY
FJT February 21, 2013 at 01:48 PM
Jeff Meyer is back, repeating his BS. No surprise there. So, Harold, once again you write something very reasonable and Jeff promptly appears to slap you down, using the same old tripe. Nice. Here's what I wrote back in October about the exorbitant taxes we pay for inflated teacher salaries and benefits (such as the "necessity" of having three health care programs from which to choose) while ranking at the bottom of the advanced nations when it comes to education: "In the US we're paying for filet mignon but getting Alpo instead. And if you dare complain that you're not getting what you paid for, you get slapped down by a union apparatchik who can't begin to understand the concept of pay based on performance." I'll end by saying public school teachers used to be respected by a majority of taxpayers back in the 50s, 60s and 70s. Today many public school teachers are viewed as grossly overpaid slackers, so much so that many parents -- if they can afford it -- hire private tutors for their kids.
Harold1968 February 21, 2013 at 02:57 PM
Jeff - You're a retired police officer in your 40's with a pension of over $80,000 per year. Your exact situation isn't sustainable and will bankrupt the NY taxpayer. You're also less of a taxpayer than most of us. As a retired police officer you don't even pay state income tax on your pension, do you? Another union deal that abuses the average NY taxpayer. Enough is enough. Public sector unions declared war on the taxpayer many years ago and it's time for the taxpayer to fight back. You also don't think any of my suggestions will come to fruition, but guess what? You probably never thought a Democratic NY Governor would go against the teacher union and impose a tax cap! You probably never thought Michigan, the birthplace of the UAW, would become a right-to-work state! You probably never thought Wisconsin, birthplace of the public union, would reform collective bargaining! When taxpayers are pushed around enough by unions and their paid-for politicians ANYTHING can happen. Next thing you know New Yorkers will come to their senses, amend the state constitution, and correct all of the abusive pensions of current retirees. We need to bring this privileged class of public sector employees back to reality (where the hardworking taxpayers live)......and anything is possible these days.
john slivin February 21, 2013 at 03:18 PM
Teachers are insanely overpaid(I am talking total comp) I am ok with a good salary but when you layer in the ridiculous benefits and pension plans as well as the fact they work a whole lot less than the average taxpayer who pays their salaries you have a major issue here(plus they can't be fired...what a freaking joke)....Cops and municipal workers as well...they are all needed but the excess that has been allowed to occur here is makes me want to throw up...the teachers union is the greediest group I have ever seen.....it is never enough...they say it is all for the kids which is biggest load of crap I have ever heard.....they have become burden's on the backs of their communities and are not looked at as the honest professions they once were.....well our backs are breaking UNION tools enough is enough
john slivin February 21, 2013 at 03:26 PM
Of course you do Jeff...you also think we should all thank you and all union tools for your time served(as limited as it was) you are a parasite you are a burden to society and will be until you are dead(and even then) you "worked" 20 years I use the word worked loosely as all you did was drive around aimlessly for hours on end but let's go with light work....retired on some BS liability and now do nothing but collect check.....you are not a welcomed part of our society Jeff that only exists in your own mind....you are a full blown burden and could be a case example of what is wrong with current set up......Go Away no one cares what you think Union Tool Boy
Francis T McVetty February 21, 2013 at 04:36 PM
The fact that the teachers union is looking out for the welfare of the "children"s a load of crap! They are looking out for themselves! Our country spends more than any other country in the world on education and you see what we get for that. We rank 18th in the world and even worse when it comes to math and science. The answer, from the democrats and the unions, is always more and more money. The education system needs a shakeup from TOP to bottom. The level playing field is also a straw horse. Get back to teaching the basics. You know like reading, writing and math. maybe a longer school year might be in order. Lets get our moneys worth from the teachers. I'd like a job that I only had to work 10 months out of the year and still get time off during those 10 months. Unfortunately most of us work 12 months a year and only have two or three weeks vacation, if we are lucky. I want the union to stop whining and get to work. Do what you are paid to do, educate our children!!!
Francis T McVetty February 21, 2013 at 04:37 PM
Pat, that is what they claim but in reality it is all about the union.
Billy February 21, 2013 at 06:09 PM
Nice point Francis! And don't forget the NYS ranks at the bottom of all states in acheivement. And let's not forget what NJ Gov. Chris Christie said, "We support the teachers, just not the teacher's union". If only our elected officials here in Westchester would get that into their heads instead of being funded & indebted to the teachers union. Voters should run from any candidate running on the Working Families Party (WFP) line which is the party of the public unions. Go ahead & google it & you'll see they're only looking out for themselves. In lower Westchester, that would be Amy Paulin, Steve Otis, Andrea Stewart-Cousins & George Latimer. Mark my words, none of them are going to propose any reforms that might lower costs for NYS. That would be going against the union bosses who got them elected.
Francis T McVetty February 21, 2013 at 08:24 PM
Jeff, "pro-union and pro-taxpayer" an oxymoron if here ever was!!!

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