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Department of Taxation and Finance

Teenagers and the property tax

Class room with teenagers

That's right - many teenagers across the state are now learning about our property tax system as part of their social studies classes. In order to graduate, high schoolers are required to take "Participation in Government," and "Economics, the Enterprise System and Finance" - both of which are generally given to seniors. Thanks to input from the Real Property Tax System Alliance, when the State Education Department (SED) developed the curriculum for these programs, they included property tax components in each of them. In addition, several members of the Alliance reviewed the curriculum prior to its publication in 2002.

That's not to say that if you have a son or daughter in high school, he or she will be required to understand our property tax system in order to graduate. The curriculum developed by SED is essentially recommended to teachers; particular aspects of the curriculum are not mandated. As a result, some teachers may be teaching property tax basics, while others are not.

This is where you can make a difference. The "Economics" curriculum lists suggested student activities, including having a representative from local government talk to the class about tax issues. And who is better prepared to share the basics of assessments and property taxes than assessors or county directors?!? If you're looking for some potential ideas, talk with your CRM and/or ORPS' Public Information Officer, Geoff Gloak. (For instance, you might want to bring Fair Assessments pamphlets and Assessments vs. Taxes handouts to illustrate what you do and why. Printouts from the online Property Tax Primer also may be helpful.) Of course, you'll want to stick to basics and be sure to give a clear and accurate overview.

So, how can you arrange such a presentation? Simply call the school, identify yourself and explain that you'd like to talk with the Economics/Social Studies teacher about doing a presentation to her class. Bear in mind that, although copies of the updated curriculum were sent to high school principals and social studies chairs statewide, some social studies teachers may not be aware of the property tax components. In any case, a simple offer of your expertise will almost certainly be appreciated.

Just think, the explanations and information you provide to high school seniors will develop a foundation of better-informed and educated taxpayers in your community!

The curriculum containing the property tax can be found on the State Education Department's website under "Grade 12 Core Curriculum." You'll find the property tax component of the Economics curriculum, which lists additional learning activities, on page 30.