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Everyone knows that election turnout is highest in general elections, especially when a president is being elected.  In last year's general election 45% of Village and Town of Lansing voters turned out.  Turnout for the April Village of Lansing election was 5%, but that is understandable because two incumbents ran unopposed, so the election result was not going to cause dramatic change.  More alarming was Tuesday's 9.4% turnout at the Lansing School District election.

When you look at all the property taxes Lansingites pay, by far the most dollars go to the school district.  Last year Lansing taxpayers paid $20.715957 per thousand dollars of property value in school taxes, a good $14 per thousand more than the next highest tax, which was $6.623573 for Tompkins County.  The Ithaca City School District tax rate was $17.4866.  The next highest after that was the Town of Lansing tax, $1.491673 per thousand, about $19 less than the school tax.  The fire district tax was about 91 cents, and the Lansing Library tax was approximately 19 and a half cents.  So you can see the school tax is significantly higher.  So why did only 493 of 5253 eligible school district voters turn out Tuesday?

Another thing to look at is the amount the tax rate rises.  The school tax rate s are estimated to rise to $20.79 this year.  The only other significant tax rate rise in the past year was about 3 cents per thousand by Tompkins County, and 10 cents in the Village of Lansing.  Town, library, and fire district tax rates were approximately the same.  Village of Lansing officials say their tax rate rise is an adjustment to compensate for lowering taxes too much in past years, to responsibly keep capital reserves at a level where road work and essential village services can be maintained.  The current Village tax rate is $1.40, still a lot less than school taxes in either Lansing or Ithaca.

The Lansing District has impressive success statistics, and there are two strong arguments for passing its proposed budget every year.  One is maintaining the District's ability to maintain that excellence.  The other is supporting the children in our community.  The key reason for opposing rises in the school budget is that high taxes are pushing long-time residents out of their homes because they can't afford the cost, especially when they are on a fixed income.

Given that these opposing points of view have real consequences for real people in our community, and given the large amount of money at stake you would expect a much higher turnout for school votes, especially because, of all the taxing authorities in New York, school budgets are the only budgets that taxpayers vote to accept or reject.

I have been casually looking at comparable properties to my house here in Lansing, particularly in south-eastern states.  I frequently see property tax rates (for all taxing authorities added together) at about 1/7th of what I pay here in Lansing.  Home values are also lower, so I could sell my home here, buy a comparable one there, and the profit would pay my property taxes for the rest of my life, with some money to spare.

Granted, the quality of the schools and services are not up to the standards we enjoy here, but for folks who feel they are being taxed out of their homes, that makes me understand why New York has been hemorrhaging residents.  Last year the New York Daily News reported that New York has lost more residents than any other state.

"During the 12-month period ending July 1, the state lost a net 190,508 residents to other states, according to the data. That pushed the net outmigration to over 1 million people since 2010 — the largest of any state, according to a review by the Empire Center, a fiscal watchdog group," the newspaper reported.

Tuesday's voter turnout makes one wonder whether Lansing voters really care about the cost of taxes.  Are we simply jaded by the expectation of being subjected to high taxes?  Do we think our vote won't matter?  Do folks simply wait until they are forced to move away, and then vote with their feet?

I don't really believe that the results would have been different had 100% of the voters turned out.  This is a community that is proud of its schools, which are frequently cited as the top reason people want to live within the Lansing School District.  But it would be interesting to see the results of a 100% turnout vote to see what the community really thinks.

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