In the coming weeks, the governor plans to enter into legislation a cap that would apply to all local governments, as well as school districts. Designed to protect property owners from skyrocketing property taxes, the cap prevents an increase in any local tax levy (amount raised through property taxes) above 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is less. However, with a 60 percent majority, residents have the ability to override the cap during budget elections.
While this is good news to property owners, local government officials find the solution shortsighted.
"A small village like Marcellus, already reeling from a loss of over $150,000 in sales tax revenue, would be forced to make severe cuts in its budget, restricting essential services or laying off employees," Curtin said.
Curtin stressed the pressures of unfunded state mandates. The village recently installed an expensive vortex filtration system to ensure that storm water flowing across Reed Street was treated before entering Nine Mile Creek. Curtin said the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation only ordered the village to install the unit after extra publicity was given to the reconstruction of Reed Street, when residents demanded the protection of a Champion Black Maple Tree.
Curtin said the bill for that projected totaled more than $31,000.
"It's a nice sound bit that comes from politicians, but if there is a property tax cap it must include mandate relief for local governments," Curtin said. "You just can't impose these mandates on local governments and expect them to pay for it with nothing."
The village passed a resolution last month that protested a property tax cap, considering that "two of the largest components of every municipal budget over which local officials have little control - pension payments and health insurance costs - are increasing at exorbitant rates."
The mandate issue has not gone unrecognized at the state level. Gov. Cuomo recently formed a Mandate Relief Redesign Team charged with reviewing existing poorly funded mandates imposed by New York State.