New York voters will decide on two statewide ballot measures on Nov. 7, 2023, regarding constitutional debt limitations.
Both constitutional amendments were referred to the ballot by the New York State Legislature. In New York, to amend the state constitution, each chamber of the legislature must pass the amendment by a simple majority vote in two consecutive legislative sessions.
Proposal 1, if approved, would eliminate the constitutional debt limit for small city school districts, which is defined as any school district partly or fully within a city with less than 125,000 inhabitants. Presently, the debt limit is set at 5% of the average total value of property tax rolls for the preceding five years within the district.
Both chambers of the New York State Legislature voted to place the amendment on the ballot in 2022 and 2023. In 2022, the Senate voted 56-5 to place the amendment on the ballot, and the Assembly voted 148-1. In 2023, the Assembly voted 145-0, and the Senate voted 60-2. All “no” votes were from Republican state legislators. Democratic state legislators, along with the other Republican legislators, voted “yes”.
Proposal 2 would extend for 10 years an existing constitutional provision regarding indebtedness for the construction and maintenance of sewage facilities. This provision was designed to exclude constitutional debt limits when it comes to the construction or maintenance of sewer facilities. Under the New York Constitution, state municipalities have a limit on how much debt can be incurred. The percentage varies by municipality. With the approval of Amendment 5 in 1963, debt incurred from the construction or improvement of sewage facilities was exempt from this constitutional debt limit. An extension of the amendment was approved by voters an additional five times every 10 years.
Proposal 2 unanimously passed in both chambers of the Legislature in two consecutive sessions in 2022 and 2023.
Between 1985 and 2022, New York voters decided 56 ballot measures—30 of them being constitutional amendments. In New York, ballot measures are more common during odd-numbered years, with 45 measures appearing on the ballot during odd-numbered years between 1985 and 2022, and 11 appearing on the ballot during even-numbered years. New Yorkers approved 40 (71.4%) measures between 1985 and 2022 and rejected 16 (28.5%).
The two constitutional amendments will be decided by New York voters on Nov. 7.