LI's county executives: Schools boost property taxes

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Both of Long Island's county executives said Tuesday that schools are a major cause of Long Island's high property taxes.

"School property taxes are crushing residents," Nassau's Thomas Suozzi said. "Since 2003, the schools' portion of the total tax bill in Nassau has risen from 58 percent to 65 percent, but the county's portion went from 22.7 to 16.4 percent."

The lawmakers were responding to a Newsday / News 12 Long Island / Siena Research Institute Poll that found property taxes were the single most important issue to Long Islanders.

Suozzi, who last year chaired the state's Commission on Property Tax Relief, said school districts' back-office functions and purchases should be done on a regional or countywide basis. And that teachers at the same level should have their salaries negotiated in a uniform way and all superintendents should be paid on a similar scale.

Suffolk's Steve Levy said that from 2000 to 2006, the cost of living rose 27 percent while the school tax rate went up 72 percent. "These kinds of increases are unsustainable," Levy said, while noting that the county's portion of taxes decreased from 13 percent to 11 percent of the total since 2004, when he took over.

He also called for changing "restrictive state" regulations that hamper a local manager's ability to control cost, such as mandatory arbitration; civil service rules that make it almost impossible to fire a bad employee and workers' compensation that allows someone to go out at age 30 on a pension because they broke a finger.

Suozzi's GOP opponent in next month's election, Legis. Edward Mangano of Bethpage, said the county should "cut wasteful spending in Nassau and correct the property tax assessment system. The present administration refuses to fix it." He added, "Freeze assessments; give people the benefit of correcting their taxes. Next year, they will make the same errors, rather than use the corrected tax rolls."

POLL: Click here to read our story, Poll shows LIers want health reform, but don't trust government

MORE: Click here to see our series on how the health care debate is impacting Long

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