Schenectady County makes move to break tax cap

Legislature calls for public hearing to keep options open for county manager

— After several years cutting or keeping taxes flat, Schenectady County has taken the initial step to override the state-mandated tax cap.

The Schenectady County Legislature on Thursday, Sept. 20, held a special meeting to call for a public hearing on overriding the tax levy limit in 2013. The county would be able to raise the tax levy by up to 2.95 percent under the cap. The proposal comes after the county cut taxes four out of the last seven years. The 2012 budget totaled $295.3 million and kept the property tax levy flat.

The public hearing will be held on Friday, Sept. 28, at 6 p.m., in the Legislative Chambers in the Schenectady County Office Building at 620 State St.

“Due to the cost of the state mandated programs and services we are responsible for paying for, the county manger is suggesting that it is prudent and necessary, in her view, to authorize the override of the state imposed tax cap,” Majority Leader Gary Hughes, D-Schenectady, said.

Minority Leader James Buhrmaster, R-Glenville, said it would make more sense to hold the public hearing at the legislature’s next committee meeting on Monday, Oct. 1.

Legislature Chairwoman Judith Dagostino, D-Rotterdam, said “it was just timing” to hold the hearing outside of the typical meeting night. She said the sales tax negotiations, which were recently resolved, were important to the discussion.

County Manager Kathleen Rooney requested that the legislature call for the hearing to provide flexibility when she crafts her proposed budget. The public hearing falls two days before Rooney must submit her budget. The legislature could then make amendments to the budget.

“What we are looking to do … is create options so that policy conditions can be considered at a variety of levels,” Rooney said, “because the tax cap is so tight it sort of limits some of those discussions.”

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