Supers wrangle with new tax cap

— North Country towns and villages are struggling to deal with the requirements of the 2 percent property tax cap Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law in June.

As a result, many government leaders report their budgets will require cuts and they need mandate relief.

The tax cap is set at 2 percent or the average of the national consumer price index (CPI), whichever is lower. The cap could be overridden by a 60 percent vote of a governing body.

Unfunded and underfunded mandates include legal requirements that a local district provide a program, project, or activity on behalf of the state or federal governments.

A day-long tax cap training event hosted by State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s office was held Aug. 25 at SUNY Plattsburgh. Supervisors from the towns of Keene, Minerva, Ticonderoga, Plattsburgh and Peru said before press time they planned on attending. The mayor of Lake George said he was not personally attending, but two of his representatives were.

William Ferebee, supervisor of Keene, said the cap definitely will affect his town, though he wasn’t sure yet if it would require budget cuts.

The state comptroller’s guidelines regarding the cap, according to Ferebee, have so far not been clear “at all.”

What if, for an unseen reason, Ferebee said, the town had to hire a lawyer, the cost of whom would place the budget over the tax cap? What would the town do?

“Really we don’t know the ground rules yet,” Ferebee said.

Keene employees haven’t seen a pay raise in three years, and in order to grant a pay raise, Ferebee said he’d need to cut from unmandated programs.

“I’m opposed to the cap,” Ferebee said. “If there was a cap on state mandates, that would be a different story.”

Minerva Supervisor Sue Montgomery Corey said the tax cap would require cuts in her town, but she wasn’t sure where in the budget.

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