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Proposed Tax Cap Worries Bronxville, Eastchester

While students and teachers In Bronxville and Eastchester celebrate the end of the school year with field days, fun days and graduations, school administrators are crunching numbers trying to figure out how they will pay the bills next year.

"We expect to face significant difficulties next year because of costs we can't control," said Bronxville Superintendent of Schools David Quattrone." The tax cap limits our local discretion to do what is right for our community."

Quattrone is expecting difficulties if proposed legislation to limit the amount of money school districts and local governments will be allowed to raise through taxes, is passed by the state Legislature.

The proposed law would cap property taxes, preventing them from increasing by more than a few percentage points, with the goal of relieving the tax burden on Westchester homeowners, who pay among the highest property taxes in the country.

Local property taxpayers have carried an increasing share of the burden to fund school district budgets, as the state has cut its state aid contribution nearly every year. At the same time, school district must follow expensive state mandates for items such as special education, teacher pensions and other benefits where costs continue to rise.

“Any type of cap on the tax levy must be accompanied by meaningful mandate relief such as exemption from the cap of pension increases, health insurance increases or debt service costs," Dr. Marilyn C Terranova, Superintendent of the Eastchester School District said.

According to Assemblywoman Sandra Galef (D-Ossining) who represents the 90th Assembly district, which includes Peekskill, Cortlandt and Ossining among other communities, the cap being considered would be anywhere from 2 percent to 5 percent, but it is likely to be closer to the lower number.

Terranova opposes the tax cap legislation, which she said has the potential to wrought serious consequences in Eastchester.

"It is a very conservative measure that will negatively affect Eastchester premier academic program," Terranova said. "It will fuel the need to lay off more staff and eliminate programs."

Despite the outcry against the measure by school administrators and parents, including a group from Eastchester who chartered a bus to Albany to display their position against the pending law, Galef said she expects the measure to be adopted by both the Assembly and the Senate. Gov. Cuomo supports the tax cap. Further, Galef said she will vote in favor of the new law.

“How can we continue to be the county with the highest property taxes in the state?” Galef asked, noting that she has heard from constituents who are in favor of the tax cap.

Galef said that she will support the measure largely because the law will have a “sunset clause” or time limit.   “The law will be in place for a limited period and  we will evaluate whether it is working ornot before it is renewed.” she said.

Legislators will end their session for the summer on Monday, and the law is expected to reach the floor prior to the close of the session, Galef said.

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