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Lewis County opposes Cuomo’s tax freeze

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LOWVILLE — Lewis County legislators have approved a resolution opposing Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s proposed property tax freeze, instead imploring the state to eliminate the cost of state-mandated spending as a solution to reduce property taxes.

“The governor’s correct on one aspect,” said Legislative Chairman Michael A. Tabolt, R-Croghan. “Property taxes are out of control and something needs to be done. Putting the burden on local municipalities is unwarranted.”

The governor’s proposal is a two-pronged, two-year attack at lowering property taxes.

In the first year, homeowners would receive a rebate check from the state based on the actions of each major municipal unit of government, if their government stays under the 2 percent tax cap.

Collecting proof and administering those checks will come at a cost to the state, as well as create state jobs, said Legislator Bryan D. Moser, R-Kirschnerville, who proposed the resolution.

Mr. Moser cited a document from the New York State Association of Counties that describes the proposal as “a highly inefficient structure for distributing state financed rebate checks to homeowners, most of which will be less than $20 each, bringing into question the net benefit to the taxpayer based on the staff time and resources necessary to calculate, produce and distribute the checks.”

The second year of the program is a larger hurdle, according to Mr. Tabolt.

“It gets very complicated,” he said. “We have to prove we’ve generated a 3 percent reduction due to consolidation of services.”

An example of consolidation of services would be encouraging townships to share the duties of justice court.

Mr. Tabolt said any savings then would have to be tallied and recorded, which goes into an aggregate average.

If townships could prove a 1 percent reduction in costs, while the county further found reductions totaling 2 percent, “That’s still just one and a half percent.”

Again, he said, money would be spent collecting these data and calculating the numbers for proof to be sent to the state.

The largest problem in the proposal, according to Mr. Tabolt, is that it does not take into consideration the many ways the counties already have consolidated, essentially penalizing them for being proactive.

In addition, the 3 percent reduction has to come from just 15 percent of the budget that isn’t already mandated by the state.

“The state needs to take control of these unfunded mandates; 35 percent of our tax levy is from Medicaid services alone,” Mr. Tabolt said.

He said the county is awaiting some guidance from NYSAC as it compiles a list of ways other counties have combined services.

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