New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) filed suit against New York State and Governor Andrew Cuomo today, Feb. 20, claiming the property tax cap legislation enacted in 2011 is unconstitutional, undemocratic, and unfairly limits school districts ability to raise funds for education. The complaint was filed in the State Supreme Court in Albany.
The lawsuit contends that the two-percent property tax cap “…locks in and perpetuates funding inequities between affluent and low-wealth school districts.”
A supermajority of 60 percent is required to override the tax cap, which the suit claims violates the principle of “one person, one vote,” giving a 41-percent minority power over the majority of voters. This provision of the law places a more odious burden on less-wealthy school districts, which have limited resources and ability to override the tax cap.
NYSUT President Richard Ianuzzi believes the law further expands the divide between wealthy and poor districts: "We can no longer accept an education funding system which denies poor students the same life-enriching educational opportunities provided to students in more affluent communities, sometimes just a few miles away. The state's undemocratic tax cap is exacerbating glaring inequities in funding while pushing many school districts to the brink of educational and financial insolvency."
In a NYSUT press statement, Karen Scharff, executive director of Citizen Action of New York, says there exists a $9,000 per student disparity in funding between the top spending districts and the lower spending districts. The tax cap is adding to this economic inequity, Scharff claims.
Additionally, the lawsuit asserts that local control over setting tax levels is guaranteed by the state constitution, and the tax cap law strips away this right.
NYSUT represents more than 600,000 teachers and school employees in New York State.