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Clarendon joins municipalities in seeking changes to tax cap

By Kristina Gabalski, Correspondent Posted 21 December 2015 at 12:00 am

CLARENDON – The Clarendon Town Board is joining other municipalities around the state in a grass-roots initiative relating to the current tax cap.

Municipal officials are bound by a tax cap set by the state, limiting tax increases to no more than 2 percent annually. (Municipalities have the option of overriding the cap.)

Clarendon Town Board members last week agreed to sign a letter to Gov. Cuomo requesting, “… that the current Tax Cap legislation be revisited and amended in such ways as to alleviate what I am certain were its unforeseen negative consequences.”

In a letter dated Dec. 8, 2015, Orchard Park (Erie County) Supervisor Dr. Patrick J. Keem invited municipalities around the state to join together in signing letters to the governor which will be presented to his office before the end of this month.

Keem is also asking one elected official to serve as a community’s point of contact in regards to the tax cap and that one elected official be willing to travel to Albany on a date yet to be determined to meet with and encourage the governor and locally elected state officials to take some positive action.

“We are of the opinion that the time has come for local officials to do what we do best, namely, personally represent and attend to the needs of our respective communities,” Supervisor Keem wrote.

He called the current tax cap, “unsustainable at the local level,” and asked community leaders to work with all parties to achieve a tax cap that benefits residents.

The form letter thanks the governor for his determination to bring tax relief to residents of the state. However, “… in the absence of mandate relief and/or increased state and federal aid, and given the reality of stagnated revenue streams, in spite of our ongoing efforts to consolidate services where feasible, local governments have begun to experience financial stress, and is some cases distress, in our efforts to comply with the current iteration of the tax cap,” the letter states.

Additionally the letter states many local communities are having to draw down to reserve funds to unhealthy levels, reduce services, eliminate some employees and submit to options that, in the long term, “will prove costly both in terms of service and expenses (e.g., infrastructure).”

“Furthermore, it appears that the tax cap is not currently applied in an equitable manner among all governments,” the letter continues.

Clarendon officials say that it is hoped that personal contact and visits to Albany will help to address the situation and note highway superintendents annually travel to Albany to discuss concerns, issues and funding.