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Property tax cap is a dead end

June 28, 2011
Westfield Republican
Why are so many working so hard to put a property tax cap in place that will do so little?

They certainly know that without an accompanying change in the ever-increasing amount of money the state demands the counties spend, the 2 percent tax cap is simply a bad joke, a diversion, a dead end, utter balderdash.

Look. It is simple. You cannot control taxes without controlling spending.

The state Association of Counties has reduced the issue to basic dollars and cents.

The costs of eight out of nine programs the state forces counties to pay for - Medicaid, pensions and the like - grew at an annual rate above 2 percent. The counties’ cost of pensions alone, for example, has grown by an average of 31 percent a year for five years.

So, let’s do the math.

In 2012, counties would be allowed to increase their tax levies a total of $90 million statewide under the proposed 2 percent property tax cap, the Association of Counties said. And based on the average annual growth, those nine mandated programs will require counties to pay, in total, an additional $279 million next year to the state.

“How can counties stay below a state-imposed property tax cap, when the state’s costs borne by our taxpayers are going up by more than three times that rate?” said NYSAC Executive Director Stephen J. Acquario.

Well, to begin with, the counties will have to cut basic local government services - police protection, road and bridge maintenance, services for seniors.

Chautauqua County Executive Gregory Edwards made that point when he spoke to the Chamber of Commerce.

The amount of money the state-mandated programs costs Chautauqua County next year will increase by $6 million, he said.

Meanwhile, the 2 percent tax cap would limit the county to increasing its property tax levy by just a bit less than $1.2 million.

‘‘ ... if we eliminated all of the local programs like all Veterans Services, Office for the Aging, Economic Development and Planning, much of our Health Department, virtually all of road and bridge repairs, and all of the Sheriff’s Department except for the jail and 10 administrative staff to serve civil process, we would not be able to meet the ‘cap’ or deal with the deficit created by Albany,’’ Edwards has said.

Why are we so caught up spinning our wheels trying to implement a tax cap but without mandate relief when it clearly will not get us out of the mud hole in which we are mired?

What reason could there be other than it is easier than the really hard work to cut spending that needs to be done at the state level.

We favor tax caps, or, better yet, no tax increases at all.

But if the state-imposed spending mandates are not lifted, either we will lose basic local government services to pay for things like Medicaid and pensions, or taxes will go up.

It is as simple as that.


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