The Journal Register (Medina, NY)

October 11, 2012

Override option derided at hearing

By Jim Krencik
Medina Journal-Register

Medina Journal-Register — ALBION — The Orleans County Legislature heard both words of encouragement and charges to show some backbone on the state’s municipal tax cap legislation at a public hearing Wednesday. But despite calls to either get under the state-imposed tax levy increase limit or not take the law’s big loophole, legislators said they are faced with no good choice when it comes to the budget.

The legislature could take up a local law to override the tax cap’s provisions at their Oct. 24 meeting. Legislature Chairman David Callard said such a law is required for any municipality to go above the cap without facing penalties.

Callard said the local law was not an indication that the county will raise the property tax levy above the state-calculated level this year. A local law was also passed last year while the county ended up below the limited increase.

”(Holding the hearing) doesn’t say we are overriding, but to override, by law, we must have the local law,” Callard said. “The rules are still changing, we don’t know (the state’s intentions).”

A group of residents, largely members of the local tea party organization, said the move was done to protect legislators from making cuts.

“It was put in place by Gov. Cuomo to protect taxpayers, but everyone is on the bandwagon to override,” said Lofthouse, who exhorted legislators “to grow some cojones” during the hearing. “If they’re going to keep overriding, what’s the sense of having it?”

Legislator Lynne Johnson said it was simply “a precautionary measure” for a budget without much room to grow under the cap.

”We have a $3 million gap with only $327,000 to stay below the cap,” Johnson said. “Our retirement and health insurance costs have gone up.”

If the county did go over the tax cap, the penalty would be that the overflow would be put in a reserve that the county wouldn’t control. Callard said the increased costs aren’t county controlled either.

”The budget is always challenging, we’re squeezed by the cap,” Callard said. “We were able to get under the cap last year, but the state reduced their support for programs.”

One economic area that is doing well, Treasurer Sue Heard told legislators, is sales tax recipients. But it’s not all good news.

”We’re in nice shape,” Heard said. “But remember, the retirement bills comes due in December.”

So does the budget.