County, municipal leaders see new state ‘tax freeze’ for municipalities as political ploy

— The New York State Legislature finalized its annual budget recently, and local municipalities are not happy with a new “tax freeze” incentive included by the governor and retained by the legislature.

Elected leaders of all four municipalities in the Cazenovia Republican coverage area — Cazenovia village and town, Nelson and Fenner — as well as the county board of supervisors, all declared the move to be election year political theater that does nothing to benefit citizens, demands municipalities to take actions most of them already do and would cost citizens more than they would purportedly save.

“the ‘tax freeze’ is a gimmick with no meaningful tax relief but it is an unnecessary intrusion on the autonomy of local governments to serve their residents efficiently using their best judgment with their unique knowledge of local needs and circumstances,” said Cazenovia Mayor Kurt Wheeler.

Wheeler previously signed his name onto a petition by the Madison County Board of Supervisors — which includes the supervisors of Cazenovia, Nelson and Fenner — to the state “adamantly opposing” the freeze.

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s “tax freeze” proposal would use state money to refund slight tax increases directly to individual homeowners but only if local governments keep tax increases to under 2 percent and make “serious attempts” to consolidate services. Cuomo said the tax freeze — or what his office has dubbed “an estimated $1.5 billion in homeowner tax relief” — would be a way to get local governments and schools to share services and thereby cut costs that would lead to lower taxes. The plan would also cut manufacturers' tax rate to zero.

Cuomo called his property tax relief "the single most transformative part" of the budget. When Cuomo recently spoke in DeWitt, he said addressing New York's high property taxes was the most important part of this year's state budget negotiations. He said he believes that consolidation of all government units would, in the long run, save money.

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