The cash-strapped Fonda-Fultonville Central School District announced this week that it could increase taxes by nearly 9 percent this year and still stay within the state-imposed property tax cap.
Yes, 9 percent is a bigger number than 2 percent, but that number will always be higher because of debt payments.
There is also another factor that plays into such a large tax increase -- exemptions for tax breaks given to businesses that locate in New York state. Several of the companies in the Florida and Johnstown industrial parks are operating under Payments in Lieu of Taxes agreements, which give them a break on paying their full share over a period of time.
Deals like these are nothing new, and PLIOTs are common programs used to attract businesses to the Empire State.
The problem is it leaves property taxpayers holding the bag, which is getting too heavy for folks in school districts across the state.
Fonda-Fultonville's financial situation is so dire that it had to make massive cuts in the middle of this school year just to stay afloat. It's facing a $1.7 million deficit in 2013-14, although officials believe they can close part of that gap.
We're glad to hear that F-FCS administrators and school board members do not plan to increase the tax levy by that much, but it concerns us to know that number could be closer to 5 percent if the companies operating in the district were paying the full freight.
When an industry comes in, it's supposed to be a benefit to the community. Along with providing much-needed jobs to struggling areas like the Mohawk Valley, property tax revenue from the industrial properties should help homeowners who barely have two nickels to rub together.
Unfortunately, thanks in large part to unfunded mandates passed from the state to local municipalities and schools, property taxes are staggeringly high, among the highest in the country. No business in its right mind would come here because of that.
So, in response, the state cuts deals with these companies that allow them to come in without paying their fair share. And, as we've seen many times, a lot of these industries will stay for the length of their tax agreements and then move elsewhere once the reduced ride is over, further decimating already struggling communities.
It's a loophole that winds up costing more than it should, and in Fonda-Fultonville, the cost is high.
Instead of finding more shiny objects to dangle in front of potential industries, lawmakers in Albany should begin taking a hard look at mandates passed on to local communities and start easing the burden on property taxpayers.
The end result could be bringing in businesses that stay here longer than the length of their tax-break deals, which would increase revenue to struggling municipalities and schools, meaning they don't have to turn to struggling homeowners every time they need more money.