Local News

May 31, 2011

Area officials welcome property-tax cap, but fear impact

North Country lawmakers, officials look for mandate relief

PLATTSBURGH — It appears that the State Legislature will approve a property-tax cap before the session ends in a few weeks, but local government leaders say more than just a cap is needed.

Medicaid is the top target for reform among area county leaders.

"This is a very important first step to get a cap, but as I've said from the outset of this discussion that a cap will not be successful unless it is accompanied by serious relief from these expensive state mandates," City of Plattsburgh Mayor Donald Kasprzak said.

2-percent cap

The State Senate and Assembly and Gov. Andrew Cuomo are on the verge of agreeing to a measure that will cap property taxes at 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower, for municipal and school taxes.

The governor and the leaders of the legislature — Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos — have been negotiating a final deal and have said they expect to pass it by the end of session on June 20.

In the latest twist, Silver has added rent control for New York City and a five-year sunset on the cap to the proposed legislation.

The governor has been pushing for the cap for months, traveling the state drumming up support.

But many local leaders are worried that a cap without mandate relief will hamstring them in their efforts to continue to provide needed services.

Clinton County Administrator Michael Zurlo said that, without mandate relief, county governments will have to make some major changes.

Preliminary projections show that under a 2-percent cap, the county could only raise an additional $546,000 in tax revenue next year, while the cost of Medicaid alone for the county is projected to go up about $439,000.

"Just Medicaid would eat up most of the additional revenue we could raise," Zurlo said.

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