Schools and taxes

July 16, 2010 2:00:19 PM PDT
Don't mean to sound like the man behind the curtain in the merry old land of Oz, but back when I grew up, the public school system in California was perhaps the best in the country. Private schools? Pashaw. There were hardly any because no one felt the need.

But then, a revolt of sorts. Peeps got sick and tired of ever-increasing property taxes. Some of the examples were outrageous. Some homeowners were paying more in taxes each year than they had paid for their homes. And the annual increases were forcing many to sell.

Conservatives seized on the issue, and offered up Prop. 13, a radical property tax cutting initiative that slashed taxes and decimated state government. Especially hard hit were public schools. They plummeted in quality, and they've never recovered.

We're seeing a similar property tax revolt in our area. And the spectre of what happened in California looms large. New Jersey lawmakers last week approved a 2% annual property tax cap. And now legislators in Westchester County are proposing a 3% increase. New Jersey says it pays the highest property taxes of any state; Westchester claims it pays the highest property taxes of any county.

The difference in Westchester's proposal: the county takes 17.5% of the property tax bill. Its plan would NOT include cutting schools.

We'll have the latest, tonight at 11.

We're also in Hackensack, New Jersey, where authorities are still trying to figure out what caused a parking garage to partially collapse. At this writing, there is at least one person trapped in a car in the rubble. But we don't know his or her condition.

Also at 11, hot enough for ya? Meteorologist Lee Goldberg says it's the most humid day of summer so far. If you've been out, you know. And it's just day one of the three-day heat wave this weekend. Lee will have his AccuWeather forecast.

And Scott Clark is covering what figures to be an emotional night at Yankee Stadium, as moments of silence are scheduled both for the late owner, George Steinbrenner, and the late public address announcer, Bob Sheppard.

And fingers are still crossed in the Gulf of Mexico tonight, as the cap seems to be holding so far on the BP oil leak. We'll have the latest.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night. I hope you can join Sade Baderinwa (in for Liz Cho) and me, tonight at 11, right after 20/20.

BILL RITTER

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