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Adirondack officials voice dire warnings over tax-cap proposal

ALBANY - Friday, local government officials from Warren, Essex and Hamilton counties and other areas of the Adirondacks and Catskills region convened in Albany to protest Gov. Paterson's proposed cap on property-tax payments the state makes on land it owns.

The demonstration was hosted and coordinated by the New York State Association of Counties.

Association Executive Director Stephen J. Acquario said this pending proposal was an unreasonable and devastating burden for local governments to shoulder.

He said counties in the Adirondacks and Catskills were already suffering high unemployment rates and reduced sales tax revenues, and without a reduction of state-mandated services, the tax cap would bloat the tax burden.

"We're already suffering a financial crisis unlike any time before," he said, noting that school districts would be disproportionately affected. "The impact of this proposal will have unexpected consequences."

As the Catskills and Adirondacks are dependent on tourism while industry and land development are severely restricted, municipalities of the two regions are dependent on the state land tax payments to provide basic services, he said.

"Residents will be paying more towards what is clearly a state obligation," he said.

William Farber, chairman of the Board of Supervisors of Hamilton County, noted at the protest meeting how his county is at the mercy of the state, with half of its acreage under state prohibitions banning development or logging, two primary sources of revenue.

Also, the unemployment rate is 10 percent, among the highest in the state.

"This tax cap is wholly inappropriate and bad public policy," he said. "Many Senior citizens who originally homesteaded their property will have to sell it and move elsewhere because they can't afford the property taxes."

In the town of Arietta, Farber cited as an example, the state owns 90 percent of the land, and pays 3/4 of the property taxes - the main source of income for local government services that the state mandates.

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