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Senate Dems seek property tax solutions

Madison County municipal and educational professionals had the ear of a senate subcommittee last week and took the opportunity to voice their concerns about rising property taxes.

Sen. David J. Valesky (D-Oneida) was one of a three-member Democratic panel that heard testimony from Central New York school, business and government leaders in an afternoon hearing held at the North Syracuse Community Center.

Supervisor John M. Becker (R-Sullivan) was among those invited to present Friday Oct. 12. He said he is at the level of government closest to constituents, taking calls from people complaining about neighbors' dogs going to the bathroom on their lawns and neighbors who leave ladies' undergarments hanging on the clothesline for days on end.

Lakefront residents have been hardest hit by initiatives forcing 100 percent assessment, Becker said, and no amount ever seems to be enough to fund public schools.

"We added $80 million to our assessment two years ago, before I took on this job," Becker said. "The schools sucked that right up and still levied a tax increase."

Becker advocated for the state taking back the counties' share of Medicaid costs.

"I am also a county supervisor in Madison County," Becker said. "We have 70,000 residents, and Medicaid will take up one-third of the property tax levy for 2008. The county has no say in how this is spent. It seems to me that an income tax vs. property tax is the only way to go."

Schools should be funded through a sales tax or income tax initiative, Becker said. State and federal mandates to schools and smaller municipalities fail to provide adequate funding, he said.

"When the town of Sullivan was told every town had to go through revaluation to get assessments up to 100 percent, the town of Sullivan followed what New York state told us to do," Becker said.

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