© 2024
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Saratoga County Votes To Override Tax Cap

Saratoga County Board of Supervisors (file photo)
Lucas Willard
Saratoga County Board of Supervisors

In July, New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli announced the 2017 tax cap would sit below 1 percent. The cap, which is 2 percent on tax levies or the inflation rate, whichever is less, was set at .68 percent. DiNapoli warned that it could present challenges for local governments.

“Local officials have faced growing fixed costs and limited budget options for years, but 2017 will necessitate even tougher financial choices.”

On Tuesday evening, the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors passed a local measure to exceed the tax cap to clear the way for a budget plan authored by Law and Finance Committee Chairman Ed Kinowski.

“The rate will be $2.30 per thousand. And that is an increase of 1.7 percent above last year’s,” said Kinowski.

The 2017 rate, 4 cents above last year’s, will mean a $4 increase for a home valued at $100,000. The rate is among the lowest in the state.

After a public hearing and discussion over the tax cap, Kinowski expressed frustration with the state policy.

“And we gotta go through all of this and publish a state law that’s only good for one year, by the way, just to do this. Four cents. You gotta be kidding me,” said Kinowski.

During the public hearing, several residents spoke against the override.

Kristine Lytle is from Saratoga Springs.

“I think they need to keep the taxpayer in mind, which they’re not. They keep on spending, spending, spending. They’re going to drive people away from this county,” said Lytle.

Robert Arrigo, founder of a conservative group called the Upstate Victory Fund, said his organization gathered about 700 petition signatures calling on the county to stay under the tax cap.

Arrigo identified areas he believed could be cut further. One idea was capping county employee pay raises at 2 percent.

“Two percent is actually pretty generous because inflation is less than a percent, so they’re getting two or three times inflation. The second place that they could cut is they could cut…the county administrator has a contingency budget which says, ‘Hey if we didn’t budget properly in here, I need a slush fund to move money around.’ In the past it’s been much less than it is this year,” said Arrigo.

Saratoga County Board Chair “Mo” Wright said he welcomed the comments, but defended the budget. Wright mentioned the selloffs of the county’s Maplewood Manor nursing home and a landfill in recent years.

“We have no more assets to sell. We can’t put any more back into it. We ‘ve struggled to get where we are now. Like I said, we haven’t done the proper amount of road maintenance in the last eight years. We had to take that money out of the budget. Those were hard decisions we made,” said Wright.

The tax cap override requires localities to muster a 60 percent supermajority. It ultimately passed, with Peter Martin of Saratoga Springs and Supervisor Phil Barrett and John Shopf of Clifton Park voting against it.

Barrett had sought to add 10 additional deputies to the Sheriff’s Department. The measure failed, but the board did approve an amendment to add five deputies.

A budget vote is scheduled for December 14.

Update: 12/7/16:

The fiscally conservative think thank Empire Center argues the .68 percent figure discussed by Saratoga County officials is misleading and that the actual tax cap for the county may be higher.

A previous a mention of a two-thirds majority needed to pass a tax cap override has been corrected to a 60 percent majority.

The original audio remains posted.

Lucas Willard is a news reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011. He produces and hosts The Best of Our Knowledge and WAMC Listening Party.
Related Content