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February 28, 2002

Citing Institute research, Giambra blasts high school taxes in Erie County

Citing ongoing research by The Business Council's research affiliate, Erie County Executive Joel Giambra said school tax increases that continually exceed the rate of inflation have cost the region jobs and are "unsustainable and unacceptable."

"In 2001, we had a net loss in Erie and Niagara counties of 2,300 jobs," Giambra said in his "state of the county" address Feb. 26. "I know why. And you know why. It's the property tax. I cut the county property tax by almost $69 million dollars—more than 31 percent—but we still have a tax problem in this region."

Giambra, a Republican, cited research by The Public Policy Institute showing that school taxes in Erie County increased at more than twice the rate of inflation in the 1990s even though the number of students increased only 8 percent.

"Total per capita local taxes, including school taxes, were about $1,000 in 1989. But by 1999, per capita local taxes were more than $1,600 dollars," he said.

Much of that is school taxes, he noted.

"Tax collections in the 27 suburban school districts in Erie County went up 79 percent—almost two and a half times more than the rate of inflation," he said. "This trend is unsustainable and unacceptable."

Giambra exhorted the region to embrace "aggressive measures to shrink bureaucracy, to cooperate wherever possible, and to consolidate wherever it makes sense."

The Public Policy Institute publishes its School Tax Watch each year by early May, a few weeks before voters in most school districts vote on proposed school budgets. The Institute analyzes proposed changes in school-tax levies and compares those changes to the projected change in the rate of inflation.

In recent years, the average school-tax levy change has been an increase of at least twice the rate of inflation. Last year, for example, proposed school tax levies would have increased by more than $740 million statewide, an average of 7.4 percent. That figure was some $300 million above the amount that districts would have needed to keep pace with projected enrollment and inflation trends.

For information on The Public Policy Institute's most recent School Tax Watch