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Bayside councilman vows to fight mayor’s tax hike

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City Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside) has not given up his fight against soaring property taxes even after being punished by Council Speaker Gifford Miller (D-Manhattan) last month for voting against the mayor’s 18.5 percent property tax hike.

Avella said last week that he is in discussion with business owners, civic leaders and residents on forming a taxpayers’ alliance with the goal of rolling back the property tax or limiting future increases, possibly through a referendum similar to California’s Proposition 13.

“I’m trying to reach out to those parties that might be natural allies in this effort,” said Avella, who lost a committee seat in the Council and parking pass, apparently in return for his no-vote on the controversial tax hike.

He was one of three Democrats in the Council to vote against the tax increase, joining Allan Jennings (D-Jamaica) and James Davis (D-Brooklyn). Dennis Gallagher, the sole Queens Republican in the Council who is from Middle Village, also opposed the tax.

Avella said the property tax increase would delay the city’s economic recovery and had already caused some residents to pack up and move elsewhere.

“I’ve spoken to people who say they have had it,” said the councilman. “You don’t want to create an exodus of middle-class people from the city.”

Although few specifics were available on the alliance, Avella said one of its options would be to propose a less extreme version of California’s 1978 ballot initiative, which cut the state’s property taxes by 30 percent and placed a cap on future increases, according to the Web site of the Cato Institute, a libertarian think-tank.

Opponents of the initiative have said it drains money from public schools as they are funded in California through property taxes.

“What they did was a radical rollback,” Avella said of Proposition 13. “I don’t think we’re looking at that. We want to create a fairer system than exists now and give the public an opportunity to comment.”

The councilman would not specify to whom he had been speaking, nor how soon the group would be formally established except to say, “We’re moving along. I think everyone is anxious to move ahead expeditiously.”

Reach reporter Ayala Ben-Yehuda by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 1-718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

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