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You can put a cap in place and if you donít change the mandated things Ö all youíve done is put all the pressure on the local government.

Massena considers property tax cap over ride

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There's a new wrinkle in the budget process for municipalities and school districts across New York. At Gov. Andrew Cuomo's urging this spring, state legislators approved a new 2 percent cap on how much local property taxes can go up in a given fiscal year.

But with expenses rising and revenues flat, counties and towns are weighing the possibility of overriding the cap. As Martha Foley reports, one St. Lawrence County town has reluctantly taken the first step.

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Massena’s town council says it doesn’t want to raise property taxes more than 2% for next year.

But it passed a new law allowing it to override the cap, just in case.

The council voted 5-nothing to pass the law…after holding a required public forum last week. Town Councilman John Macaulay says most council members want to keep taxes as low as possible — but the cap puts the town in a tough spot:

"we pretty much don’t have a choice. Most of us on the board feel the state didn’t think clearly through this. You can put a cap in place and if you don’t change the mandated things you have to pay. All you’ve done is put all the political pressure on the local governments and taken it off yourself at the state level."

Most of those at last weeks’ public forum spoke against overriding the tax cap. The Watertown Daily Times reports former town supervisor W. Gary Edwards suggested cutting financial support to non-profits like meals on wheels; and taking a closer look at library funding.

Others were concerned raising property taxes would hurt the town’s business climate.

 But Councilman Macaulay says between state-mandated expenses and lower revenues from sales tax, the money coming into the town just isn’t enough for even a bare-bones budget.

And he says the town’s already spending money very carefully:

"The vast majority of the expenses charged to the town are things like highway crews and fire protection—you know we contract fire protection through the village—that I’m not sure people would like to get rid of, you know what I’m trying to say?" 

Massena is among the first municipalities to take steps to override the cap. Macaulay says the town wanted to put the law in place before its final budget is due in Mid-November. Under Town Supervisor Joe Gray’s proposed budget, taxes will increase by 13%—the town council will attempt to bring that increase down to 2% before passing it.


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