Homeowners in the city of Oswego will be able to voice their opinions at a pubic hearing on a proposal to reinstate the city's five percent property tax cap. The original limit was removed in 2011, but after the city's common council approved a 43 percent property tax increase in December, support has been growing to bring it back.
But Oswego Mayor Tom Gillen says this year's tax hike was unavoidable.
"Numbers don't lie," Gillen said. "And in order to maintain a secure, safe, family-friendly city, we had to raise those taxes. Keep in mind that we hadn't raised taxes in quite some time. And when you go 10, 15 years without raising taxes, when the consumer price index goes up a couple points every year, sooner or later you're going to find yourself in the wrong part of town. And that's where we were. We had to do something."
Gillen says instituting the five percent tax cap would leave Oswego in a difficult financial position, particularly if something unforeseen happens that the city has to spend money on.
"A five percent tax cap gives us roughly $375,000 of a float," Gillen explained. "That's pretty much it. You want to talk about the state handing down some unfunded mandates, which could be well over $375,000 at that point in time, we would have to say, okay, we can't spend more than this, that means we've got to cut."
In April, lawyer Kevin Caraccioli gathered more than 500 signatures for the tax cap proposal, which would require Oswego voters to approve budgets that surpass the five percent threshold.
A public hearing is scheduled for the evening of July 28 at Oswego City Hall.