In the January 18, 2013 issue of Soundview Rising
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in his State of State address (January 10, 2013) touted his property tax cap by saying the middle class had the lowest taxes in eighteen years. Further he commented, "responsible" State budgets were passed on time. Vowing to make education better he felt that either the school day or the school year needed lengthening. Pre-kindergarten classes were also requested. His speech acknowledged gender pay inequality and advocated the need to raise the minimum wage to $8.75 per hour. He promised no new taxes. What it did not say was how his tax cap has impacted many communities.
Cuomo's tax cap may have helped some Westchester communities, but not all. On October 2, 2012 a message titled, Governor's Tax Cap - "Delivering as advertised," clearly stated that Governor Cuomo's top priority since being elected has been "to address out-of-control increases in property taxes." These high taxes were characterized as driving residents and businesses from the state. Last year Cuomo enacted the first New York State tax cap. The message continued that this "tax cap has led to increased fiscal discipline on the part of local communities."
A conflicting view quoted State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli on the financial stresses of local governments in the January ll, 2013 issue of Rising. Government expenditures grew locally from 2006 to 2011 by an average of 3.3% per year while the revenue averaged only 2.8% per year Total city expenditures (except for New York City) increased 8.4% but revenue only reached 6.4% more. Towns were similar growing 12.9% in expenditures but only reaching 7.1% more in revenue.
County Executive Rob Astorino's County budget passed with no increase in taxes. This vote, achieved in a bipartisan way, has not escaped criticism especially by some Democratic County Legislators who opposed this budget. In the January 4, 2013 issue of Rising the estimated County tax levies of communities were listed. New Rochelle, for example, is cited to have a 2.53% decrease in County taxes. White Plains and Yonkers also have decreases.
It is easy for the Governor to speculate that communities will live within the tax cap, but it is also easy to spot practices which have arisen to skirt the tax cap. For example, the City of New Rochelle has added fees such as the "garbage fee" to their budget. Now they have announced the prospect of more new utility taxes for water and electric bills. These and other measures will be voted on by their City Council this month and are included in a list of items that must then be sent to Albany to obtain approval.
Will the State Legislators approve these tax increases? If they do they will be adding to the mockery of a tax cap that obviously can be avoided in many ways.