December 20, 2005

Lane on tax abatements, Zahler on school taxes

County Legislator Michael Lane is in the news again, this time because the Tompkins County Industrial Development Agency, which he chairs, passed tax abatements for the Cayuga Green project over his opposition. Lane had reasons which go beyond this project in downtown Ithaca:

Lane said he felt the IDA, and therefore taxpayers, should not have to share a private project's financial risk.

"I don't feel that taxpayer money should be part of an investment partnership that may go up or down," Lane said.

I liked the approach of simply declining abatements mostly because it didn't open any doors to creative accounting, and has minimal overhead. I guess we'll see what this experiment does, but I suspect there are good reasons that simple abatement schedules are the norm. (It's especially strange because I've only heard how the county will help if the developer doesn't make enough profit, with no sense that if the project outperforms expectations that the county would get something back. Update: I've now seen the draft agreement, and the county would get something back.)

On the opinion page, Kathy Zahler of Dryden has a guest column on lessons we can learn from the Spencer-Van Etten school district's being forced into fundraising:

Bake sales and auctions are lovely, but they are band-aids on a hemorrhage. We need to put our energy into the two things that will solve the problem. One is at the state level: It's the way we fund education. It's wrong, it's unfair, and it's progressively destructive. The other is at the national level: It's the way we pay for health insurance. It's bleeding the country dry.

We should be talking about successful education finance reform such as Act 60 in Vermont or KERA in Kentucky. We should be talking about New York's own finance reform lawsuit, which our state government seems to be actively ignoring. We should be talking about national health insurance, acknowledging the fact that government-run insurance programs like Medicaid are demonstrably more efficient and economical than any existing private corporate insurer.

Until we have that conversation - on school boards, at church suppers, in living rooms, at work, in the media, with our legislators - we all face the plight of the S-VE parents, who love their children enough to pay twice for the betterment of their education, with no relief in sight.

In county news, the TCAT bus system had over three million riders this year.

Posted by simon at December 20, 2005 8:29 AM in , ,
Note on photos