By Suffolk County executive Steve Bellone and Dr. Jim Malatras, president of the Rockefeller Institute of Government
For decades, New York had among the highest local property taxes in the nation, more than double the national average. The American Dream of homeownership quickly became a nightmare—all because of property taxes.
Something needed to be done. To their credit, in 2011 Gov. Cuomo and the state Legislature rose to the occasion by instituting a property tax cap for the first time in state history. And the results have been truly extraordinary. Recent analysis by the Rockefeller Institute of Government found that the tax cap has saved homeowners $25.6 billion in property taxes since it went into effect in 2012. This was much-needed tax relief, especially for hardworking middle-class families all across the state. That is why over the past seven years, Suffolk County has passed a budget that complies with the property tax cap.
But the tax cap was not made permanent. Now, with the property tax cap up for reauthorization, the time has come to take it a step further, and finally make this law permanent to protect not only Long Islanders, but also homeowners across the state.
By making the cap permanent, we are sending a message that we care about the economic wellbeing of suburban homeowners.
If New Yorkers have to live within their financial means, then our state and local governments should do the same. But more importantly, it is recognition that municipalities must deliver services in a more efficient manner. One way to achieve this is through shared services.
Earlier this month, Suffolk County unveiled an online virtual marketplace to facilitate purchasing among its participating local governments. The portal acts as an “online Costco,” providing municipal employees the ability to shop for the services they need – everything from recycling, street sweepers, road resurfacing crews and more. Now local governments can access easily upload contracts and licenses, engage in cooperative procurement, and use powerful data analytics tools to identify strategic purchasing opportunities.
The result is tens of millions of dollars in savings for taxpayers over a two-year period. It’s not about less government; it’s smarter, more efficient government.
In the end, the real money is found in taxpayers’ wallets, which in turn provides more disposable income to spend in the state economy. This year, Albany has another opportunity to rise to the occasion to do what is in the best interest of our taxpayers.