October 12, 2012

Right step, but concerns ahead

The initial report on the state’s property-tax-levy cap shows that it appears to be succeeding, as the average property-tax growth ra, te has been held to about 2 percent statewide.

That is 40 percent less than the previous 10-year average.

We hope that trend can continue but recognize that there are some serious concerns ahead. The cap certainly was a step in the right direction, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the State Legislature deserve some plaudits for implementing it last year.

“The promise of a new New York was based on a simple idea: to return our state government to the people of this state and to the taxpayers,” the governor said in his report.

“For years, out of control spending drove property taxes higher and higher, forcing families and businesses out of our state. New York had no future as the tax capital of the nation, and last year, people in all corners of the state came together to help us put in place the property-tax cap, which empowers communities to take control of their own spending and tax levies. One year later, it is clear that the tax cap has been a tremendous success, saving hard-earned money for New York families while ensuring that local governments learn to do more with less.”

Yes, the cap is generally a good idea and does appear to have helped contain the runaway tax burden on property owners, but we can’t help but wonder what will happen once the cap honeymoon wears off.

While most municipalities in the North Country have done well with the cap and have produced budgets within its parameters, many have had to dip dangerously deep into their precious fund balances to do so.

This practice certainly cannot last, as by 2014, we dare say, most municipalities will have worn their fund balances down to next to nothing, putting budgets in serious peril.

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