Oct 12, 2011 Jason Emerson Uncategorized
The Skaneateles Town Board voted on Oct. 3 to further discuss at a public hearing the possibility of passing a local law to allow the board in its 2012 budget to go over the 2-percent tax levy cap recently imposed on municipalities by the state.
The action would create an “insurance policy” for the town in case its budget needs to go beyond the tax cap, although Supervisor Terri Roney said, “We don’t anticipate exceeding the 2 percent in any way.”
The tax cap was signed into New York state law on June 30. Under the law, property tax increases are capped at 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is less. Local communities and local voters can override the cap with a 60-percent vote on the budget.
Roney and Town Budget Officer Bridget Winkelman said the law not only limits municipalities from increasing their total budgets more than 2 percent, but also more than 2 percent on individual program or department funding within the overall budget. This would mean that even if the entire budget increased by less than 2 percent, the highway department of town clerk’s office could not have 3 percent increases. They must stay below 2 percent as well.
“Without passing this we cannot spend anything over 2 percent, or we can pass the local law and if necessary to the budget it would be there and available,” Winkelman said.
She said there is no penalty for passing a local law and then not exceeding the 2 percent cap. But not passing the waiver and going over the cap is penalized by the town having to allocate a certain percentage of the amount by which the budget was exceeded into a separate account to be applied to the next year’s budget.
Roney told the board a constituent had told her that morning that he feared creating this “failsafe” would simply allow the town to exceed the budget, whether intentionally or not — a circumstance the state law was specifically passed to prevent.
The board, however, was concerned specifically that its highway department budget may be “penalized” by the cap. Highway Superintendent Jim Card said he could not predict the future of his department’s budgetary needs, but if the price of oil and stone continues to increase then his budget would increase as well.
Roney said the town roads could suffer and may have to wait until the next budget year to be fixed in order to keep costs under the 2-percent cap.
Councilman Steve McGlynn asked, “So if a bridge goes out and the cost is over the 2 percent cap, we can’t fix it?”
“Yes, we could not fix it under the current law,” Roney answered.
“That’s flawed,” McGlynn said.
“Philosophically, I like the 2-percent cap, but we’re going to spend more than that on the highway department,” McGlynn added.
Roney said that the board’s constituents will be upset if they cannot keep the roads up to certain standards and then blame the tax cap.
The board voted unanimously to hold the public hearing to further discuss the local law to waive the tax cap.
The public hearing will be at 7:15 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 3, at the Town Hall.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Skaneateles Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.