SARANAC LAKE - Town Supervisor Roby Politi isn't a fan of the state-imposed tax cap, and he expects the town to exceed it this year.
"The state wants you to maintain a tax levy (increase) of 1.66 percent, and yet they're out there sending us increases in New York state retirement contributions of 12 to 15 to 20 percent," Politi said. "I've got a problem with it, and I don't think it makes sense, and I don't want to see our constituents suffer from our not having proper equipment or being able to pave roads that are in desperate need just because we want to stay under a tax cap."
The only way small towns have met the cap in recent years is to deplete their fund balances, he said. If North Elba stayed on the same track it has been since the tax cap was introduced, it would soon have a $700,000 fund balance, down from $1.8 million just a few years ago, Politi said. The current fund balance is $1.3 million. (Editor's note: This paragraph has been corrected.)
North Elba town Supervisor Roby Politi
(Enterprise file photo)
"You can't keep utilizing so much just to meet some artificial number that someone created in Albany to look good," Politi said.
He said the governor instituted the cap, and he keeps the state budget in check now.
"But they're using all our money, and they're passing all the costs down to us," Politi said. "That's not so hard to do, pass all the costs onto the counties and towns."
The idea of giving a flat requirement to all the municipalities in the state is unreasonable, Politi said. North Elba, for instance, has to pay the state Olympic Regional Development Authority $750,000, he noted.
"It's an awful lot of money for a little town to have to pay," he said.
It's also more difficult for municipalities that have kept their taxes low to stay within the cap, he said.
Another problem with the cap is that municipalities are deferring important spending projects to meet the cap, said town Councilman Bob Miller. He said the town would like to do something with its pile of construction and demolition waste, but it's too costly right now.
Politi gave town Attorney Ron Briggs a proposed resolution to override the 1.66 percent cap on the tax levy. He said town board members will probably consider it at their November meeting, depending on how budget sessions go over the next few weeks.
The budget as it stands now is a wish list, and the tax levy would increase by 20 percent if every department head gets what it wants, Politi said. The board will reduce it from there, but Politi said it would be extremely difficult to get under 1.66 percent, or even 2 percent.
The board will hold budget meetings starting this Wednesday and Thursday that will likely continue every week until the budget is passed on Nov. 12, Politi said.
Contact Jessica Collier at 518-891-2600 ext. 26 or firstname.lastname@example.org.