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Panel in Hastings Debates Property Tax Cap

HASTINGS-ON-HUDSON, N.Y. -- The Hastings Community Center hosted a panel to discuss the recent property tax cap in New York and what it means for Westchester going forward.

Members of the panel included New York Assemblyman Thomas Abinanti, Director of New Yorkers for Fiscal Fairness and Coordinator of Omnibus Consortium Ron Deutsch, Westchester East-Putnam Region PTA Advocacy Chairperson Nicolette Minozzi and Chairman of the Westchester County Association Alfred DelBello.

Each member of the panel had their own personal take on the ramifications on the tax cap and it made for some lengthy debates amongst them and the audience.

DelBello, who referred to the cap as a "blunt instrument," led off the panel by telling the crowd that Westchester has the No. 1 highest property tax in the United States, so something needed to be done to help alleviate that. The cap will limit amounts of money school districts and municipalities can spend, which DelBello said would discourage them from wasting money.

"Throwing money at problems isn't really the answer," he said. "Things need to change."

Abinanti was strongly against the tax cap and said it was all talk by politicians.

"My view is that the tax cap is just sound bite politics," he said. "It can't be justified on any basis."Abinanti referred to the cap as a "draconian measure" and that it was a "job killer" because it would lead to budget cuts.

"I think it's an arrogant move by people at the top trying to blame people on the bottom," he said. "What's wrong with blunt instruments is it rewards those who were run inefficiently in the past."

Minozzi was also totally against the cap, saying the PTA has opposed it since the beginning. She told the audience that health insurance for teachers is projected to increase 10.6 to 11 percent.

"Where is that money coming from?" she asked the crowd. "We would like parents to hold decision makers accountable."

Deutsch was also against the cap, saying middle class residents were being taxed too heavily and

this cap would not actually provide personal tax breaks for individuals.

"We know a lot of people were sold a bill of goods with this tax cap," he said. "We believe that there needs to be short term relief and long term reform."

Deutsch referenced the 60 percent majority vote it would take to override the tax cap.

"That to me is not good democracy," he said.

Deutsch suggested a "circuit breaker" and said property taxes should never go above a certain percentage of your income. If it does, then you would be able to receive a rebate through the circuit breaker.

"Right now is not the time to give millionaires and billionaires a tax cut," he said.

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