Readers Write: Property taxes harmful to communities, county finances

The Island Now

Many thanks for your strong endorsement of an income-based tax policy for the county. The only issue I would take with the column is that the policy is “imaginative.”

Actually, the concept has been with us for decades, and was nearly put in place by then County Executive Tom Suozzi, but was cynically blocked by Legislator Craig Johnson at that time.

The results of that wrong turn have been ruinous for the county.

Nassau County’s last elected Assessor, Harvey Levinson, was in favor of an even more dramatic policy change: replacing the entire school tax portion of the property tax with an income tax (The Need For A Transparent Assessment System, Newsday Opinion, January 2, 2014.)

It is hard to overstate the damage the current system has done to the county both as a community and its fiscal condition.

The young were blocked from moving in, and the old, after decades of paying hundreds of thousands into the system, were effectively banished and evicted from their own communities due to the suffocating costs.

The ever-expanding costs of schools made tax challenges an easy shell game, playing havoc with county finances and forcing the bonding of millions to cover the costs of the refunds, a self-inflicted burden future county executives will be dealing with for many years to come.

Most galling was the fact that the amount you could afford for a home also determined the quality of education your children received.

It is hard to imagine a more socially regressive policy, and remarkably, the most self-proclaimed “progressives” in our county had no problem enforcing this structure of economic Bantustans.

Replacing assessment with an income tax eliminates these harmful inputs at a stroke.

We could also go further, if we had the political courage.

We also need to “de-content” certain components from the property tax system.

First, there is the matter of the property owner’s contribution to the New York State Teacher’s Retirement System.

This is an anachronism from a past age that should be done away with.

It is manifestly unjust for struggling families to fund even a part of a teacher’s or superintendent’s retirement package, while they can barely fund their own nest egg.

The economic calculus has changed, and the policy needs to change with it to reflect that. It will be hard from a political standpoint to achieve this. it doesn’t make the policy any less regressive.

Going even further, and maybe not so far off as we think, is the adoption of a single-payer health insurance system where each citizen is responsible for their own coverage.

Just think:  If the health insurance input is removed from the cost structure of property taxes, for both public and private employees, New York becomes instantly competitive, and no longer has to ask taxpayers to subsidize tax breaks to get companies to locate or remain here.

We are the only nation on earth that adds health insurance to the cost of its production and services. This too is destructive to our prosperity.

I do hope this idea gains momentum and I would urge every voter in Nassau County to press their representatives to see this through. We came close once. We can put this over with enough support.


Donald Davret


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The Island Now

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