New York School Budget Votes Could Send Tax Revolt Clue, Weigh Cuomo Popularity

 @DavidZie on May 15 2012 5:03 PM
Andrew Cuomo
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo gave his 2012 State of the State address Wednesday afternoon. He is seen here at a 2011 speaking engagement. Reuters

New York's suburban and upstate voters Tuesday are determining the future of their property tax rates and could also weigh the standing of Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The reason is they are voting on school and library budgets in hundreds of districts throughout the state that for the first time were supposed to be written to respect Cuomo's 2 percent property tax cap.

Cuomo was elected in a 2010 landslide over Republican Carl Paladino in part because he promised to deal with property taxes, among the highest in the U.S. About 65 percent of state residents' property taxes are for schools; the rest goes to county, town and village governments as well as to thousands of taxing districts for parks, fire and sewer departments.

In some years, residents have overwhelmingly voted against their school budgets. Local school boards then either slash them for resubmission or institute so-called austerity budgets mandated by the state education department that leave most salaries and courses intact but eliminate extras such as basketball teams and marching bands.

This year, for example, just about all of Long Island's 124 school districts have abided by the cap, which Cuomo signed into law at a ceremony last June in Lynbrook, in Nassau County.

Cuomo swept Nassau and Suffolk counties, as well as the northern suburbs of Westchester, Rockland, Orange and Putnam counties, in his romp over Paladino.

In some years, though, voters have voted against school budgets, a signal for later in the year that they are fed up with taxes and politicians. That happened in 1994, when many budgets were turned down and a popular Democratic governor, Mario Cuomo, was turned out of office by a state senator from Putnam County, George E. Pataki. Mario Cuomo is the father of Andrew.

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