Town overrides state tax cap in preparation for work forging new town budget

by Dan McClelland
The Town of Tupper Lake board overrode the state tax cap at its October meeting as a precaution in its planning for a new town budget in upcomingweek.  The October meeting began with a public hearing on proposed Local Law No. 1 which attracted no residents.
Under the state tax cap law, which was enacted by the state legislature several years ago, the most the 2017 tax levy can increase over the current one is   six-tenths of one percent.
Supervisor Patricia Littlefield said the board took similar action in recent years, and at least once in recent years revoked the override measure when it stayed under the cap.
She said creating a new budget that holds the tax levy below a one percent increase “is a lot for the state to ask” of a municipal government.
“I'd do it if the state would too,” came a comment from Deputy Supervisor John Quinn.
Mrs. Littlefield said the town in 2017 is looking at an eight percent increase in premiums in health insurance for town employees and no firm number yet on how much retirement contributions will increase for next year.
Another factor that will make creating a low-tax increase budget in 2017 a difficult process, she said, is the fact that the total assessment in the town will bedown by $1.2 million.  She said a number of factors are involved in the total assessment decrease, including markets sales at amounts below the assessed valuations of local properties and successful grievance protests at the town's annual tax grievance day each May.
The supervisor said that by enacting the local law, it gives the board the ability to create a new budget where the total tax levy is more than six-tenths of one percent- as required this coming year by the state.
She said with some “tough decisions” the board may be able to stay under the cap, but she was doubtful.
She reminded her colleagues thatfor the current board's first budget for 2015 the tax cap that year was two percent, and the budget was under it.
She said the 2016 budget adopted last December didn't meet the tax cap, which had fallen below two percent.
“We'll do the best that we can, however, in our budget workshops” in upcoming weeks.
During the regular meeting, the board unanimously adopted the local law permitting the board to override the cap if necessary in its budget preparations.