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Officials call for mandate relief to be included in tax cap

Trustees from the village of Saranac Lake are expected to pass a resolution Tuesday evening calling for mandate relief to be included in any discussion of a property tax cap in New York.

Village officials note that the level of property taxation statewide has reached - quote - "dangerously high levels."

But trustees say New York leads the nation in property taxes largely because of inefficient state mandates on local governments.

Officials say pension payments and health insurance costs are the two largest contributors to municipal budgets - yet villages and towns have little to no control over those items.

According to the board's resolution, bills from the State Retirement System will increase by an average of 40 percent in both 2011 and 2012.

Village trustees say state laws pertaining to collective bargaining between municipalities and unions don't allow officials to control costs as they pertain to rising property taxes.

Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo has been a consistent and vocal advocate of a statewide property tax cap. He's expected to dive into the matter soon after taking office next year.

Cuomo's plan would impose a cap on the annual growth of property taxes.

But village officials claim that Cuomo's tax cap would only work if the state simultaneously repealed current state mandates that - quote - "require local governments to increase spending and property taxes."

Trustees say that enacting a property tax cap without mandate relief could lead to drastic cuts in services and - quote - "dramatic layoffs of municipal employees."

Robert Ward is deputy director of SUNY's Rockefeller Institute of Government. He notes that prior governor's have attempted to impose a cap on property taxes and failed.

He does think Cuomo has a better chance next year.

"The legislature tends to give new governors some deference," he said. "It seems likely there will be some sort of tax cap enacted next year."

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