From 1995 to approximately 2012-2013, there were two economic contractions in New York State. The first occurred after September 11, 2001 and the second occurred in 2007-2008 or the Housing/Banking crisis. Immediately following those catastrophic events, local government employment surged. The number of teachers as a segment of that population did not, however. In fact, they suffered major losses following and during the contraction cycles. During the 2012-2013 period, local government added some 78,000 people to the payroll. These numbers do not include NYC and the Burroughs. State employment levels have had a net loss of approximately 30,000 government employees since the 1990s.
New York State had a net gain of roughly 8,600 teachers throughout the state to 2012. Approximately 6,000 of those went to Nassau and Suffolk County alone. Suffolk and Nassau had an 11% and 3% increase in population between 1993 and 2012. Suffolk County has the most number of students (255,293 in 2011) and teachers (18,663 in 2011) in the state (compare to Erie County which had had 133,580 Students and 10,457 Teachers in 2011). Nearly all school districts in NYS have an average of 13 students per teacher ratio and have maintained that over 20 years. Suffolk County spends approximately $15,000 per student where as Erie County Spends approximately $5,000 per student.
The state gained roughly 15,000 police personnel over the same time. Police retirement costs have been rising exponentially and this is likely due to overtime.
Looking at the Office of the Comptroller of New York State’shttp://www.openbooknewyork.com/website, retirement benefits are one of the fastest growing segments of municipal budgets. Transportation and economic development are also large segments of municipal budgets, but not near as large as retirement benefits. BUT the largest single cost to local governments is medical benefits which also has been growing, but not at the same rate as retirement benefit costs. (Note: This site does not take into consideration the time value of money. Therefore, for example, $14,000 in 1999 is approximately $20,000 in today’s dollars).
Retirement benefit costs are fast growing for three reasons in New York State: One, years that the stock market was doing well, local governments were funding at lower levels (the New York State and Local Government Retirement Fund is fully funded and one of the few in the nation that is fully funded). Two, the two economic contractions cause lower yields and therefore require higher funding levels to make up the difference. Three, the large surge in local government employment.
Therefore, it appears that the single largest contributing factor to your tax bills is medical benefits. Would it not seem logical for State and Federal government to lower the costs of healthcare so that tax payers could see their tax bills at the local level reduced and reduced significantly? This means more than supplying affordable healthcare insurance. This means investigating the cost of providing healthcare at its core.
*All assumptions are based on the review of the Bureau of the Census Pension Series and Government Employment data and the Common Core of Data (CCD) from the Department of Education.