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Local Town Officials: Tax Cap Would Be Devastating

Town officials in Pound Ridge and Lewisboro said a proposed property tax cap currently under consideration by the state legislature in Albany would cripple their budgets and thwart efforts to install fiscal stability during tough economic times.

“It would be positively devastating to small towns,” said Pound Ridge Councilman Richard Lyman.

While Lyman said his comments on the proposed cap were his own opinions, he felt they reflected the general feelings of the rest of the Pound Ridge Town Board.

“Coming from Albany, it is absolutely disingenuous,” he said. “[The proposed property tax cap] has no impact on the state budget because they receive no income from property taxes. They don’t face the consequences of their own mandate.”

According to Assemblywoman Sandra Galef (D-Ossining) who represents the 90th Assembly district, which includes Peekskill, Cortlandt and Ossining among other communities, the cap being considered would be anywhere from 2 to 5 percent, but it is likely to be closer to the lower number.

Despite the outcry by area officials and parents, including a group from Eastchester who chartered a bus to Albany to display their position against the pending law, Galef said she expects the measure to be adopted by both the Assembly and the Senate. Gov. Andrew Cuomo supports the tax cap. Further, Galef said she will vote in favor of the new law.

“How can we continue to be the county with the highest property taxes in the state,” Galef asked, noting that she has heard from constituents who are in favor of the tax cap. Galef said she will support the measure largely because the law will have a “sunset clause” or time limit.

“The law will be in place for a limited period and we will evaluate whether it is working or not before it is renewed.” she said.

Legislators will end their session for the summer Monday and the law is expected to reach the floor prior to the close of the session.

Lewisboro Town Supervisor Charlie Duffy said in theory, a tax cap looks good. However, he finds it unfair that Albany would reduce a municipality’s revenue through a tax cap while continuing to hit it with unfunded mandates that drain a town’s coffers.

“We are continually burdened with programs from the legislature,” he said. “When we are burdened with things that are outside our control, that’s when the cap is an issue. How do we get relief from some of those responsibilities? I appreciate the need for fiscal discipline, but it can’t cause us undue harm.”

Lyman said he feel bad for homeowners living in area with some of the highest property taxes in the country, but notes that most of those taxes are garnered by the school districts, not small, local governments.

“You have to look at the reasons for those high taxes,” he said. “Ten percent of the total tax bill is for the town and 70 percent is school taxes. The rest is [for the] county. It’s the smallest percentage that delivers the most services. I certainly sympathize [with those who complain about high property taxes], but 85 percent of it out of our control.”

Calls to Lewisboro-Katonah School District officials were not returned by deadline.

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