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Villages Confront The Property Tax Cap

Fiscal restraint already a long-held practice

The 2 percent cap on property taxes is an issue being debated all across Long Island, as several villages have already voted to override the cap, while also promising to maintain fiscal and revenue restraint.

Most of the villages in the Roslyn area, however, are committed to holding the line. If they plan to stay within the 2 percent tax cap, it is not because of the new law, but because fiscal restraint has been their policy for years on end. In short, the tax cap was not aimed at villages in the Roslyn area.

The Village of Roslyn Harbor does not plan to vote for an override. Village officials note that they have kept taxes flat for the past several years, even lowering them in a recent budget.

“We will do everything possible to stay within the cap so as not to ask our already overburdened residents to contribute more,” a village official told The Roslyn News.

Similarly, the Village of East Hills hopes to keep taxes not just within the tax cap range, but indeed below it.

“Our Village expects to impose less than a 2 percent increase in taxes for the 2012/2013 tax year,” said Mayor Michael R. Koblenz. “This year, East Hills had a zero increase this past year through the means of attrition, longer use of vehicles and equipment, a cost effective inter-municipal agreement with the Town of North Hempstead for services, reduced expenditures, and postponement of new projects. With the economy so sluggish, our objective remains to keep our village tax increases to an absolute minimum. Even though our next tax year is still six months away, we have been monitoring our receipts and expenditures very closely so that we can accomplish.”

Meanwhile, the Village of Roslyn Estates held a public hearing on the tax cap at its January meeting without taking a vote on the matter.

At its December meeting, the Village of Roslyn voted to override the cap, doing so on the recommendation of the New York Conference of Mayors. But as with other villages, this doesn’t necessarily mean village property taxes will exceed the 2 percent range.

“We enacted a local law to override the 2 percent tax cap, but the local law does not require the Village to take action, it is more of a failsafe,” said Village of Roslyn Mayor John Durkin. “Because the tax cap is new and there are still many unanswered questions regarding implementation, we thought it was a good idea to protect the municipality if there was a technical or clerical error in the cap calculation or some other unforeseen occurrence that would inadvertently cause the Village of Roslyn to exceed the cap.  We took this action at the suggestion of the New York Conference of Mayors.” (See story, “La Marmite Turns into Tax Cap Lecture Center,” page 8.)

That view echoes those of other villages in Nassau County. For instance, the Village of Massapequa Park’s board of trustees voted to override the tax cap with the village mayor claiming that certain formulas around the tax cap, namely penalties for overtaxing, might result in budget deficits for the village. Officials have also cited pilot program monies, which may be less than originally promised, as another factor that could throw budgets off track.

The tax cap legislation came as a response to an issue, property taxes, that lawmakers have long claimed was driving young people from not just Long Island, but New York itself. For instance, during his eight-year tenure as Nassau County executive, Thomas R. Suozzi constantly focused on that issue and even made it the centerpiece of his run for governor in 2006.

The tax cap limits the increase in property taxes each year for school districts and local municipalities to 2 percent, or the rate of inflation. If a community chooses to increase taxes more than the tax cap allows, a 60 percent vote in a school budget vote or a 60 percent vote by a local legislative body can override it.