The primary argument in support of the Ways and Means committee's nearly $50 million in amendments to County Executive Joanie Mahoney's proposed budget, is that the Legislature is scrambling to find a way to at least reduce the impact of skyrocketing real property taxes for county residents.
In light of this, we can't help but be reminded of why property owners face such outrageously high property taxes next year.
No, the revised sales tax formula did not directly cause property tax rates to shoot out of control. But it did alter a system that had diffused the property tax costs for many county residents, which next year will result in shockingly high tax bills.
Up to this year, most towns and villages used their shares of the county's sales tax revenue to offset residents' property taxes - on their behalves. Now that those municipalities won't be receiving the revenue shares from the county, they can't use it to pay down county property taxes, leaving residents with a seemingly sudden and exponentially increased financial burden.
But is it the responsibility of the county legislature to use the budget to close the property tax gap that the new sales tax sharing agreement exposed?
No - especially not if it means trading valuable services county residents depend on, like Air One, for lower property taxes for some county residents.
We understand that the new sharing agreement has shed light on what may have been a misleading practice for many property owners, and the reality of that is going to be, for some, double the property tax in 2011. But let's fix this the right way. Let's use this opportunity to clamp down on spending at the town and village level, and try something with a little more foresight. Like making the overall region friendlier to businesses and tourism to kick start the economy, or eliminating duplication of services and taking a progressive, careful look at consolidation.