Tax cap proposal divides legislature
YATES COUNTY—The Yates County Legislature is divided over a proposed resolution to keep county spending at last year’s level. Legislator Gary Montgomery (District 1—Italy, Middlesex, Jerusalem) presented the draft resolution at the finance committee meeting last Tuesday, Feb. 11. The purpose of the resolution is to “aid Yates County toward a 2015 budget at or below the New York State tax cap level.”
The legislation reads “Be it resolved that the Yates County Legislature committees not approve any resolutions that will cause the county’s 2015 net spending budget to exceed the adopted 2014 budget.” The committee discussed the proposal,with legislators on both sides of the argument voicing their concerns. While all legislators agreed it should be a goal, many felt it would tie the legislature’s hands in case of an emergency.
Montgomery said the legislature has “a big problem in 2015,” and he is trying to work now in order to prevent another large tax increase for the county.
“The problem is the track we are on does not allow us to remain under the tax cap level,” Montgomery said “[...] The sooner we get on this, the better.”
Legislator James Smith (District 2—Benton, Potter, Torrey) agreed with Montgomery, saying following the same procedures done in the past is not going to lead to any significant change for the county.
“I think [this resolution] is saying business as usual is not going to cut it,” Smith said.
However, not all legislators agreed that a resolution would be able to keep the county within the tax levy limit. Many said they agreed it should be one of the goals for the county to achieve, but a resolution would end up causing more problems than initially intended if passed.
“I understand what you are trying to do, but I don’t know how you are going to be able to do it,” Legislator Dan Banach (District 3—Milo) said. “[...] It is change for the sake of change just to make you feel better. Sorry, but I’m not going down that road.”
Legislator Margaret Dunn (District 1—Italy, Middlesex, Jerusalem) said she did not believe a resolution would be needed in order to meet the objective of staying within the tax cap. She said if something were to come up after the resolution is passed that would need to be addressed, the legislature would be unable to do anything if it would cause them to exceed the property tax levy limit.
“This ties our hands in case of an emergency,” Dunn said.
Legislator Leslie Church (District 3—Milo) said it would be fine for the legislature to set a goal of staying under the tax cap, but added she thinks it would be a mistake to pass a resolution to do so. She said the comptroller even recommends that municipalities override the tax cap to account for any mistakes that are made that would otherwise result in penalties.
Legislator Bill Holgate (District 4—Barrington, Starkey) said in order to remain under the tax cap, it would have a significant impact upon the services offered by the county due to the service cuts that would have to be made.
“If we want to do this, somewhere there will have to be huge cuts,” Holgate said.
Smith disagreed with that notion, saying the county could also have growth that increases revenue.
County Chairman Tim Dennis (District 2—Benton, Potter, Torrey) said the 2015 budget should not face the same issues as within previous years and should be able to remain within the tax cap.
“I have gone on record more than once saying that I fully expect the 2015 budget to stay within the tax cap,” Dennis said.
Montgomery agreed to do some more work on drafting the resolution and will resubmit it to the finance committee in March or April. Smith said it would be best to defer the decision until after the county holds its strategy session, but added the intent of the proposed legislation is noble.