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February 24, 2014

County Legislature Discusses Differences betweenCounties' and Governor's Tax Relief Proposals

OSWEGO -Governor Cuomo's proposed two-year property tax freeze would provide a property tax rebate of just over $16 to the average Oswego County homeowner, but a tax reduction plan proposed by counties would cut those same bills by $514, Oswego County Administrator Phil Church told members of the County Legislature last week.

County Legislature Chairman Kevin Gardner (District 13, New Haven) requested that a summary of the Governor's complicated "tax freeze" plan, which would provide property tax owners a temporary state-financed rebate, be provided at the Feb. 13 meeting of the Oswego County Legislature. The analysis is posted on the Oswego County government Web site at www.oswegocounty.com/admin/tax

"In Oswego County, the entire property tax levy is consumed by just six of dozens of New York State mandates. Medicaid alone consumes 55 percent of the property tax levy," said Legislature Chairman Gardner. "It is critically important that we as legislators understand the ramifications of the Governor's proposal on county services and county taxpayers. For that reason I asked County Administrator Phil Church to present an analysis of the Governor's proposal."

The Governor's plan calls for a two-year property tax freeze that would be accomplished by sending rebate checks to homeowners in tax jurisdictions that comply with the 2 percent real property tax cap. In the second year, if the Governor's proposal is approved, municipalities will be required to submit a local government consolidation plan that will reduce the combined tax levies of participating levels of government by 3 percent. Homeowners would be eligible for a rebate in those municipalities that kept their levies within the tax cap, and submitted the consolidated and shared services plan to the state by June 2015

County governments across the state would be responsible for coordinating the development and implementation of the consolidation/shared services plan. Church said there are many variables that would determine whether the proposal is feasible, and whether it would be cost-effective for the taxpayers of Oswego County. "The Governor's tax 'freeze' and shared service plan does not address the root cause of high property taxes in New York State - the costs of state-mandated programs," said Church. "The state pushes enormous costs to counties, municipalities, and school districts. Every dollar the County collects in property tax pays for State programs, not the local services that local people want and deserve."

Several members of the County Legislature, as well as the county administrator, attended the annual meeting of the New York State Association of Counties (NYSAC) earlier in February in Albany.

Church said that NYSAC and many counties across the stateare proposing-- as an alternativeto provide property tax relief to New Yorkers-- thatthe state take over the costs of four of its own programs: Medicaid, legal defenseforindigentpersons, pre-school special education, and Safety Net, the state's public assistance program for people whose federal public assistance benefits have expired.

"The idea here is, if the State takes over the costs of its own programs, it would have an incentive to control the costs," said Church. "That would lower the total amount of taxes people pay to the County and the State."

He noted that Oswego County has a long record of consolidated and shared services with local municipalities.

"Just a few on the list include social services, public health, solid waste, youth bureau, elections, weights and measures, drug task force, 911 emergency dispatch, emergency communications, 911 consortium with our neighboring counties, sand and snowplowing, civil service administration, tax bill printing, and tax collecting," said Church. "None of these will count in the Governor's plan, nor will the recent dissolution of the Village of Altmar."

The Legislature will continue to gather information on the impact of the Governor's proposal, said Legislature Chairman Gardner.

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