"Realtors support good schools, as a matter of fact, we do," Kelly said. "They are extremely important to people when they make important decisions in purchasing a home. Why do the taxes that are supporting our schools have to be 78 percent higher than the national average? They don't have to be. We have to make some changes. So let's make some changes to address that and still provide good schools."
Carl Korn, spokesman for the New York State United Teachers, said districts have already made changes, and most district budgets kept tax increases in line.
"In fact, spending increases this year were less than one percent," he said. "That's the lowest ever documented."
School boards have eliminated programs and have laid off teachers and staff to control spending in their districts, Korn said, but with a total of $3.2 billion total in state education cuts over the past three years, the burden has shifted to the taxpayers.
"Campaign for Fiscal Equity sued the state and alleged the state had violated the constitution for failing to fund public schools properly," Korn said referring to a 2003 case. "It went its way through the courts and [former Gov. Eliot] Spitzer settled and the state had to spend $4.7 billion more to settle the court case. They've violated the court order; they've cut back state aid by more than $3 billion."
It was an issue many superintendents stressed could potentially be a problem for the 2012-13 budget season. South Colonie Central High School Superintendent Jon Buhner said it is frustrating to watch politicians cut billions in aid while nothing is being done to relieve districts of the burden of unfunded mandates.
He said he doesn't view the budget as balanced based on revenue and cuts " all he saw was cuts.
"Look across the state. This year it was more difficult because of massive cuts to state aid," he said. "Most schools were near or below the property tax amount. This year we're projected at 2.93 and last year had something similar, but we came in much lower. Schools have been in that range regardless because they know it's the right thing to do."