Clay votes to exceed tax cap

— Citing unfunded mandates and costs handed down by the state, the Clay Town Board voted Monday, Oct. 1 to adopt a local law to exceed the 2 percent property tax cap.

The property tax cap was enacted last year by New York state. According to the law, schools and municipalities can only increase property taxes by 2 percent over the previous year. If a town, village or school board’s budget does call for a tax increase of more than 2 percent, the entity must first pass a local law to authorize that increase after holding a public hearing. Otherwise, the municipality faces penalties from the state.

Town Supervisor Damian Ulatowski emphasized that the law was just a precaution, as he hoped that his budget would stay within the confines of the tax cap.

“I’ve put together a very strong budget,” Ulatowski said. “It’s very close to the tax cap. But you never know what will happen when I look at pension costs. Those are passed on by the state to municipalities, and we have no defense whatsoever, no relief, and neither do you.”

Those pension costs, Ulatowski said, could force a tax increase above the proscribed 2 percent.

“I’m confident we will be at or just below 2 percent,” he said. “The board works diligently to attain that and to curb costs as much as we can. But there are things I cannot foresee and things I cannot get relief on from the state. This hearing is for that eventuality.”

The hearing drew some questions from the crowd.

“Why can’t state pension costs be brought under this cap?” asked Ed Paulini. “We’re stuck here. All we see are increases, increases, increases. How are we supposed to absorb all this stuff? How about seeing state people pay own pension costs instead of us paying for it?”

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