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White Plains Debates Property Tax Cap

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. - While state legislators continue to negotiate the property tax cap they've agreed to pass, a similar debate has seized some White Plains residents, including Tina Gutman, who said they have concerns about how the cap would affect school budgets.

"Transportation is an issue for every district in this area and what they call peripheral employees, to me, really help take pressure off teachers," said Gutman, 47, who said she'd seen fewer hall monitors, special needs aids and other school employees in recent years. "Kids can't just survive on academics. How can we have kids ready for college if they cut extracurriculars?"

Gutman, who has three kids in the White Plains School District, also worried that if commercial properties are included in the proposal to limit annual property tax revenue increases to 2 percent, huge revenue losses would thrust higher tax bills on White Plains residents.

"I'm not comfortable with it," said Gutman, who teaches at the Children's Village in Dobbs Ferry. "How do you set a law across the board when each town has its own laws and regulations?"

On Tuesday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and state legislators agreed to pass a state-wide property tax cap where municipalities couldn't raise tax levies more than two percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower. The tax cap could be disregarded if the school budget passed by 60 percent or more instead of the current majority approval required to pass the property-tax funded school budget.

Other White Plains residents including Dennis Gargano said they were eager to hear that Albany voted the tax cap into law.

"I support the tax cap because it would make them be more responsible," said Gargano, 38, an editor for the Oxford University Press. "They can't just have an open purse. And there is a way to get around [the cap] if it's necessary."

The slumping economy made the move to curve rising tax rates more important to Eastchester resident Gina Dieuveuille, 37.

"It's what everyone needs with gas prices going up and the uncertainty in the market," said Dieuveuille, a consultant for a voluntary benefits company and parent of a school-aged child.  "Every little bit helps...Another concern of mine is elderly folks because, unfortunately, of the tax hikes they've had to move out of [Westchester.]"

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