Town budget will not exceed two percent increase

— The Skaneateles Town Board will not seek to pass a local law allowing its 2012 budget to go over the recently imposed 2-percent state tax levy cap. The decision rescinds an earlier conclusion the board made at its Oct. 3 meeting.

The board’s reversal was the result of a clarified understanding of the new tax cap law, and the resultant knowledge that the town’s budget will not exceed the new limit.

“We are not anywhere near in jeopardy of exceeding the levy limit,” Skaneateles Town Supervisor Terri Roney told the board at its Oct. 20 meeting.

Roney said the proposed town budget has a tax levy increase of approximately 1 percent.

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.

At the Oct. 3 board meeting, 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 caused the board to fear that the highway department budget, specifically, may be “penalized” by the cap.

The board decided at that meeting to hold a public hearing on Nov. 3 on a law to allow the budget to exceed the cap after Winkleman explained that there is no penalty for passing a local law and then not exceeding the cap. But not passing the waiver and going over the cap is penalized.

At the recent Oct. 20 board meeting, Roney told the board that she and Winkleman had attended a webinar on the tax levy cap, which “clarified” certain aspects of the new law. Specifically, individual program or department funding within a municipality’s budget can exceed the 2-percent limit; it is only the overall budget that cannot exceed the cap.

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