Mouth That Roars

Bill Liblick has made a name for himself of National TV Talk Shows where he spouted his outspoken views from the front row. Now he offers you his opinion every week in the "MOUTH THAT ROARS" Column in the Sullivan County Post.

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November 15th, 2013

Overriding the Tax Cap

Four Sullivan County legislators took a monumental stand last week voting against lifting the New York State Tax Cap of 2 percent. A vote of six was needed to go above the 2 percent.

Thank you legislators Cora Edwards, Alan Sorensen, Gene Benson, and Cindy Kurpil Gieger for saying that Sullivan County taxpayers have had enough – There is just so much blood one can get from a stone.

Legislators Scott Samuelson, Ira Steingart, Kitty Vetter, Kathleen LaBuda, and Jonathan Rouis all voted in favor of overriding the tax cap. And the reasoning for the vote according to some of those legislators was that they planned on coming in within the tax cap, but wanted to have that extra cushion just in case.

Village of Monticello Mayor Gordon Jenkins who was in attendance at the legislative meeting applauded those legislators who voted to stay within the tax cap.

Legislators will now have to work together to balance the budget within the state mandated 2 percent.

Acting County Manager Josh Potosek proposed a budget of close to $200 million several weeks ago with a tax increase of 3.59 percent, but the state-mandated tax cap ends that, and he will now need to figure out what will be done with the estimated $800,000 that needs to be slashed from his original budget. On a positive note I have been told there will be no layoffs or cuts to important programs.

How does one balance a budget with no layoffs, cuts to programs, or decreasing services? Perhaps the legislature needs to start with the high costs of out sourcing and vendor contracts.

Although the increase would have meant a $16 increase for each home assessed at $100,000, there are those who felt that that is even too much, especially when some legislators voted themselves a pay increase starting in 2014.

So far legislators Gene Benson, Cindy Gieger, and Cora Edwards have gone on the record stating that they will not accept a raise in salary. Other legislators are expected to join the fray as it is politically incorrect to give oneself a pay raise when asking voters to pay a tax hike.

The historic property tax cap pushed by Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature requires local governments and school districts to raise taxes no more than 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is less.

The New York State Tax Cap website notes that, “As important is that the tax cap is not a dictate from Albany. Communities may raise or lower property taxes according to the needs of the community. If the taxpayers want to pay more taxes they can, and they can override the cap with a 60 percent vote for schools and by a 60 percent vote of the governing body for local governments.”

The tax cap legislation has become a political hotbed issue throughout New York State because, “the critical part of the tax cap is that it has stimulated community dialogue in property taxes like never before. People are now paying attention and communities are engaged in the process like never before. The tax cap help will put the odds in favor of the taxpayer and they deserve it, because the deck has been stacked against the taxpayers for too long.”

Last year the Sullivan County Legislature overrode the tax cap to balance the budget. It was their first since being elected. Potosek has been doing an excellent job as acting county manager and at working this year’s budget.

The reasoning for a tax hike is costs and expenses rising for such things as health insurance and pensions. It has been reported that the county could face a combined hit of up to $1.8 million because of health insurance and pension costs.

The foremost claim for the need to raise taxes still is state and federal mandates involving social service programs.

Realistically, we all know that things are not good in Sullivan County, and the budget is just a reflection of that.

According to recent statistics – Sullivan County has one of the highest poverty levels in New York State. We are one of the unhealthiest Counties, along with unemployment and foreclosures at record highs. Not to mention the spike in criminal activities such as burglaries.

Without a doubt the approval of resort destinations will be a big boost to our economy just in sales tax revenues alone, but the serious problem is – What do we do until then?

Click the link below to view the New York State Tax Cap website.

Bill Liblick has made a name for himself on National TV Talk Shows where he spouted his outspoken views from the front row. Now he offers you his opinion every week in the “MOUTH THAT ROARS” Column in THE SULLIVAN COUNTY POST.

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