Town officials are toying with the idea of removing the state’s 2 percent property tax cap, and the public will soon have a chance to weigh in.
The Glenville Town Board has set a public hearing for Wednesday, Oct. 5, to solicit comments from residents about the possibility of the town overriding the 2 percent property tax levy cap spearheaded by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Glenville Supervisor Christopher Koetzle was quick to stress the public hearing during the upcoming Town Board meeting doesn’t mean the town is planning to overturn the tax cap, but board members want all options available while developing the town’s 2012 budget. Since the board needs to adopt a local law to override the tax cap, a public hearing is required. This is planned to be the only public hearing for the local law.
“This is only meant to give the board a tool if they need to override the tax cap for whatever reason,” said Koetzle. “This does not mean the board is thinking about overriding the cap. It just means that we need to go through a process so it’s a tool the board has if so needed by the time of the adoption of the budget.”
After the meeting, Koetzle said resident input has an impact on the budget, but the board ultimately has to do what it thinks is best for the town as a whole. Historically, the tax levy has fluctuated, he said, but the average levy increase over 10 years is 8 percent per year.
“The majority has been, ‘stay under the cap,’” Koetzle said about comments he’s received so far from residents. “A lot of them also say protect this service or I am willing to pay for that service.”
For each 1 percent the tax levy increases, town residents pay roughly an extra $5 on their taxes on average, said Koetzle. Residents will need to ask themselves, he said, if they are willing to pay more in taxes to protect town services.
During the Town Board meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 21, Koetzle said town department head requests for the 2012 budget placed the tax levy increase around 12 percent if all requests were approved. Koetzle said he has been meeting with department heads and town officials and the budget is moving in the right direction.
From the original requests, he has whittled it down to a 5.7 percent tax levy increase, with outside-village residents holding a 7.2 percent tax levy increase.
The focus for Koetzle before he submits his preliminary budget at the end of the month is to get the budget under the tax cap. Also, he wants to continue “breaking the dependency” on the fund balance usage in the town.
“There is a lot of work to do to get it under [2 percent]. It is a lot of work and there is going to be … a lot of pain in this budget if we did it under [2 percent],” said Koetzle. “My intention is to deliver less than the 2 percent tax cap, not because the Governor said it is what we should do … but because it is what our people in this town want us to do.”
Residents have expressed to Koetzle, he said, they don’t want service cuts and they want the tax cap to be “respected,” but those two goals don’t easily fit together. There is a two-page list of cuts Koetzle said he put together. Some of the major cuts will include staffing, he said, which would result in a drastic change to how town business is conducted.
“The pain is going to be spread equally and evenly,” he said. “It is not the budget I would have wanted to propose, but it is the reality of the world that we are living in.”
Councilwoman Gina Wierzbowski said the town has held two budget forums seeking input from residents, but attendance was “really low.” She said explaining the budget can be difficult.
“It is really hard to try and explain all of the things that impact our budget,” Wierzbowski said. “When this 2 percent tax cap was passed, I don’t understand why there no impetus to change the way the state does business as well. This is the state coming down on local governments, who are much more lean and much more efficient than the state, and holding this limit on us that … is completely unrealistic.”
Each 1 percent increase in the tax levy for the town amounts to around $50,000 added to the budget. Koetzle the town is facing about $600,000 in new costs in 2012. Some cost savings were recently achieved from town employee union contract negotiations resulting in health care expense savings, he said.
“All the revenue lines have dropped … what other place can we go?” said Koetzle.