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Posted: Thursday, March 13, 2014 10:30 am

Assembly supports mayor’s pre-K and tax increase plan

The state Assembly’s budget proposal, approved Tuesday, includes funding for universal, mandatory prekindergarten in the city, just as Mayor de Blasio has been pushing for.

Inclusion of the mayor’s request for permission to raise city taxes on income above $500,000 from 3.9 percent to 4.4 percent, which requires Albany’s approval under state law, sets up a potential showdown with Gov. Cuomo, who opposes the hike.

De Blasio says the increased revenue is necessary to ensure funding for universal pre-K, as well as more afterschool programs. Cuomo says Albany should not raise taxes and could fund pre-K statewide with existing revenue instead. But under his plan, universal preschool would not be offered until the fall of 2015, rather than this fall, as the mayor plans.

Each house of the state Legislature and the governor must agree on a budget proposal for it to take effect. While the governor has repeatedly stated his opposition to de Blasio’s plan, there are enough votes in the Senate to support it, according to sources. It is not clear, however, if Republican Leader Dean Skelos (R-Nassau), who shares power with breakaway Democrat Jeff Klein (D-Bronx, Westchester), will allow it to come to the floor.

Supporters were ecstatic over the Assembly’s action. “I know first-hand, as a Queens parent leader, that our children and working families will benefit enormously from expanded access to pre-K and after-school programs,” Alicia Hyndman, president of the District 29 Community Education Council, said in a prepared statement.

Beware top frauds

To mark the start of National Consumer Protection Week, state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman last week released a list of the top fraud complaints his office received in 2013, along with tips on how to avoid them.

The subject areas and number of complaints received were:

1. internet (privacy issues; spyware; consumer frauds): 4,753;

2. automobile (buying; leasing; repair; service contracts; rentals): 2,614;

3. credit (debt collection; credit card billing; debt settlement; payday loans; credit repair; credit reporting agencies; identity theft): 2,295;

4. consumer-related services (security systems; restaurant/catering services; tech repairs; dating services): 2,158;

5. mortgage (mortgage modifications; mortgage and loan broker fraud; foreclosures): 1,748;

6. landlord/tenant (deposit releases; tenant harassment): 1,733;

7. furniture/major household appliances: 1,168;

8. home repair/construction (home improvement services not delivered or done poorly): 995;

9. retail sales (any sale of goods: food; clothing; rent to own; wholesale clubs; price gouging): 913; and

10. mail order (purchases made online or from a catalog): 816.

The AG’s tips on how to avoid being scammed are posted online at ag.ny.gov.

Suit alleges a racial bias in property tax

A class action lawsuit filed late last month claims that city property taxes discriminate against minorities who rent apartments.

The discrimination exists because renters, who statistically are more likely to be black or Hispanic than homeowners, who are more likely to be white or Asian, pay a disporportionate share of property taxes through their rents, the suit alleges. The action was filed against the city by Manhattan law firm Newman Ferrara and two people who rent apartments, according to the Daily News. One of them is Rosa Rodriguez of Middle Village, the paper reported.

Renters pay 37 percent of property taxes but their buildings only make up 23 percent of the city’s assessed value, the suit says, according to published reports. Owners of one-, two- and three-family homes pay 15.5 percent of the taxes, while their properties make up 48 percent of assessed value.

— compiled by Peter C. Mastrosimone

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