Rye taxpayers will be entering undiscovered tax country if an $80 million school bond is approved by voters in March. In an unchanged world, there’s reason to believe Rye City School District taxpayers would stomach tax increases to pay for more debt and would continue to celebrate living in one of the greatest towns in America.
But things have changed.
First, our high property taxes (Westchester is the highest taxed county in the U.S.) are no longer fully deductible on Federal tax returns. Come April 15, many taxpayers will be in for a shock. We will be the Uber-taxed County.
Second, other governmental bodies, the City and the County, are likely to resume borrowing, spending, and taxing. The City desperately needs to borrow money to pay for the repair of its failing infrastructure – roads, sidewalks, sewers, etc. The previous County administration didn’t raise taxes in eight years; there’s likely to be a “catch-up.” The taxman cometh.
Third, we are not living in an era of great moderation. Many Rye taxpayers have still have not recovered from the Great Recession, nor for that matter have their home values. We are painfully aware, after the tech crash in 2000, the great crash in 2008, and trade wars today, that our economic fortunes can turn on a dime. Do we wish to be indentured to $80 million in debt during a severe recession?
Alexander Hamilton remarked that George Washington displayed discernment in action – prudence – and discernment in thought – judgment. To paraphrase the poet Wordsworth: “Washington! Thou shouldst be living at this hour. Rye hath need of thee.”