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Uncapping a taxing formula

Government leaders finding 2 percent tax cap not so simple after all

— The newly enacted 2 percent property tax cap isn’t as simple as the name implies, as many municipalities are finding out in their 2012 budgeting processes.

The cap is really the first of many calculations behind the tricky maze of exceptions and exemptions. Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s approved mandate on how high town, county and school leaders can raise taxes appears to be a simple calculation if only looking at the surface, the “2 percent tax cap.” As tentative municipal budget proposals are surfacing for next year’s spending, many proposals fall under the mandated guidelines but exceed 2 percent.

The Town of Bethlehem and City of Saratoga can still fall within the “2 percent tax cap” even if budgets were proposed doubling the limit. After calculating exclusions, Bethlehem holds a 4.11 percent limit on its tax hike and Saratoga’s limit is even higher at 4.53 percent. Both municipalities are proposing budgets with a tax levy increase around 1 percent, falling well below their limit and the perceived 2 percent cap.

The Town of Niskayuna is also proposing a 3.4 percent tax levy increase in its tentative budget, but it falls under its tax cap limit. The Town of Glenville is similar with its 3.2 percent tax levy increase.

The state Department of Taxation and Finance and the Department of State have released a 12-page guide to implementing the property tax cap. Various webinars and seminars are being hosted by the state to provide government bodies with the knowledge to implement the cap, too.

“We’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out how it works and it is essentially a formula,” said Bethlehem Comptroller Suzanne Traylor. “People within the government are confused … the process is getting educated to what it means.”

Traylor has attended “numerous” informational presentations, she said, including a special session of the state Office of Comptroller.

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