The latest "hit" upon our taxpayers came when our school districts served by the Town of Clarkstown were advised that they will have to assume the cost for collecting school taxes. The town has always been allowed by law to add a processing fee, but facing their own budget shortfalls, now seem compelled to take this action.
Clarkstown School Assistant Superintendent for Business, Facilities & Fiscal Management John LaNave stated that the effect of this action by the Town will add to the District's planned 2.1 percent tax increase by the equivalent of another percentage point. Translation? Because of the chargeback, that planned, average, annual property tax increase of $160 will now have another $80 added to it.
This is a prime example of why I and a few others in the County legislature opposed the passing down of costs mid-year such as elections, RCC, etc., from the County to the Towns, as it is merely was transference of costs and absolutely NOT a savings. That action created a budget shortfall for Town governments. In the final analysis, the taxpayer will pay more, just on a different tax bill.
Now the Town is passing along administrative costs by charging a fee to the schools, and of course the schools will pass that cost along to us on their tax bill. But at some point does the school district respond to their future budget shortfalls by charging the Town for use of their school facilities by Town programs? The point is that the "town" will not be charged ... you, the citizen using the program will be charged by virtue of an increased fee. And the cost spiral continues.
Bottom line ... when costs are passed along in this manner, the payment is made by the taxpayer either by additional taxes on another tax bill or through added fees.
Look, the county, schools, towns, and villages all must deal with budget demands. The 2% property tax cap adds even more challenges to that. And to continue an approach to these demands in a separate and parochial way is not going to work, something we are all finally seeing now.
To be very clear ... this is not a "fault" issue nor a "finger pointing" exercise. It is an observation in support of what I have maintained since first becoming as legislator. The challenge is clear ... we need to work collectively across ALL levels of government to reduce the ENTIRE cost of living here. Find ways to consolidate and combine responsibilities, not add more charges for them. Government cannot continue to function in a provincial manner because in the final analysis, we will all pay more.