Schools in New York last year lost an estimated $1.8 billion in tax revenue to businesses receiving tax abatements.
A report released Wednesday by the national advocacy organization Good Jobs First detailed the revenue hit schools in the state with the tax breaks, using a new government accounting rule that disclosed the effect of the abatements for the first time.
The report gave lawmakers in the state Senate and Assembly a new catalyst for a bill meant to end the breaks.
State Sen. Sean Ryan of Buffalo is backing the legislation with Rochester Assemblyman Harry Bronson that would bar Industrial Development Agencies from abating the school share of property taxes.
"It's a simple bill: Prohibit IDAs from waiving school taxes. School taxes belong to school children," Ryan said on Wednesday at a news conference flanked by advocates.
The tax deal is meant to encourage businesses to create and retain jobs in an otherwise high-tax state. But critics have long been skeptical of the deals.
"I'm all for supporting businesses because they are the entities that employ our families," Bronson said. "But I'm not about supporting businesses on the backs of our children."
Advocates like Marina Marcou-O'Malley say the tax breaks can add up for individual communities around New York. For Albany public schools, it can mean hundreds of thousands of dollars.
"It's a difference of about half a million dollars," Marcou-O'Malley said. "Half a million dollars can get you pre-K transportation, which Albany use to offer, but doesn't anymore. It can get you two more community schools."
New York schools have been struggling with the after effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Rashida Tyler of the New York State Council of Churches says resources like mental health programs are needed.
"They cannot offer the services that students in their districts need and they're also sacrificing future investments in education that can help the districts become competitive and the students become competitive," said Tyler, the group's deputy executive director.
New York schools have received billions of dollars in additional aid and are set to get more this year and per pupil spending is already the highest in the country. But despite the historic spending, Tyler says they should be getting more.
"It's giving with one hand and taking with another," Tyler said. "We're getting more aid and that's what people, but that's being taken away through tax giveaways and pilot agreements."