Ilya Marritz covers business for WNYC.
Local Governments Struggle With NYS Property Tax Cap
Monday, September 26, 2011 - 12:00 AM
Towns and counties across New York are drawing up their budgets for 2012, and this year the job is particularly complicated. The reason is the property tax cap enacted in June.
Property taxes can't rise more than 2 percent, or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower. That sounds simple, but there are lots of exemptions, such as rising pension costs.
So-called "chargebacks," where one government entity charges another government for goods or services, are also prompting many questions.
"We have received literally hundreds and hundreds of phone calls from local officials asking us very detailed questions," said Steve Hancox, deputy state comptroller for local government.
Starting this week, the Comptroller's office will hold outreach sessions at locations across the state, in an effort to answer those questions. New York City is not covered by the tax cap, but the surrounding suburbs are.
Localities affected by the recent flooding upstate will have a particularly tough time complying with the tax cap due to the rising costs associated with clean-up and recovery. Local governments can raise taxes beyond the cap, but only if certain criteria are met.
For many governments, budgeting this year will be a new kind of challenge.
"A family can make some changes in their expenditure patterns, they don't buy the second TV or they don't go out to the movies as often," Hancox said, adding that a different rule applies to local government: it must clean up flood damage, plow snow, and meet other unexpected expenses, whether revenues are healthy or not.