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EditorialLansing residents will get a school tax rebate in November.  Homeowners who have  Basic Star will get about $63 dollars for a $100,000 house, $138 for a $200,000 house and $213 for a 300,000 house.  For homeowners who qualify for Senior Enhanced Star the rebates are expected to be $51 for a $100,000 home, $126 for a $200,000 home and $201 for a $300,000 house.  Those are the projected amounts of this year's Lansing school tax rise.  Lansing property owners who meet complicated criteria will receive the difference between last year's tax and this year's.

We're getting these checks because our school district kept this year's levy below the state tax cap.  But next year the school will have to prove that they are economizing by sharing services with other local taxing authorities.  Town officials have already approached school administrators to collaborate on a list of efficiencies that will qualify according to the state's complicated formula.

In fact our Lansing taxing authorities have always collaborated.  The Highway Department paves roads and parking lots for the schools, and provides a convenient place for Fire Department vehicles to refuel.  The schools provide facilities, including the swimming pool, for Recreation Department programs offered by the Town.  The list of efficiencies is stunning.

But what counts, and who gets the credit?  How far back does the State look?  Does the State even tell the municipalities what the rules actually are?  Local officials are confused and nervous, because the promise of a rebate, no matter how small, means they better qualify for it or face voters' wrath at the polls.

I almost don't hear sentences about money and New York State any more without reference to a complicated formula.  Complicated formulas create a lot of work and stress for local taxing authorities, and that costs money.  Essentially it is an unfunded mandate to support the state dictating to local communities.

While I am all for lower taxes, I have to wonder how significant a $138 check is in the grand scheme of things.  How much of our tax money does it take to figure out who gets a check, how much, and to send all those checks out?  Would our schools have had to raise taxes at all if it weren't for onerous state mandates?

Lansing Superintendent Chris Pettograsso has said she would prefer the State simply give the money to the school district directly.  that is certainly a lot simpler than making taxpayers pay, and then paying them something, and it would cost the State a lot less.  So why not do it?

Well, why doesn't the State make good on the school aid promised instead of playing games with a gap elimination scheme that restores some aid to districts, but not what was promised in the first place, making it an even more complicated formula when districts struggle to come up with a budget each year?

How does all this actually help taxpayers?  It doesn't. It creates more bureaucracy and a lot of busywork for local officials who are already swamped with more than enough work.  The smaller municipalities suffer the most, because they don't have the manpower to fill out the forms and jump through the hoops.  If Albany truly wants to help taxpayers it should repeal almost all its mandates, pay for the remaining ones, honor its promises -- especially to the schools -- and simplify procedures.

Like that's gong to happen!  Enjoy your rebate.  Don't spend it all in one place.

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