The Oswego County Legislature is joining several other counties across New York to oppose Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposed property tax freeze plan. They voted to support another option proposed by the New York State Association of Counties, to eliminate the cost of state funded mandates instead. The final vote was 16 to 8, with 1 absentee.
Oswego County Majority Leader Terry Wilbur says requiring local governments to stay within the state's two percent tax cap, and then proving they are collaborating on services during the second year of Cuomo's plan, will only provide minor short-term savings.
"Under the governor's tax freeze plan, on average the county bill alone, the taxpayer will get back $16.07," Wilbur said. "That'll be two years only, so it's temporary."
Wilbur says the governor's plan also negatively impacts municipalities that he says are doing everything they can to cut costs.
"We're not going to benefit from this long term, especially because we've already done a lot of consolidation and shared services here in Oswego County," Wilbur said. "Most counties have. Because as towns lose their tax base, they have to go to a broader tax base, which is the county. So sheriff patrols, county health department, social services, those all used to be at the town level. Now they're at the county level."
He says cutting unfunded mandates would permanently save county taxpayers about $514 a year, and that the state will have more opportunities to streamline those costs for additional savings.
Medicaid mandate costs are the biggest bulk of the county's tax plan.
"The leaders, as well as the governor, know exactly what Oswego County needs, what we want and how they can get there," Wilbur explained. "We did give them suggestions. We told them if you take over Medicaid, that's 54 percent of our tax levy that can go away. That can come out of the local taxpayers' hands and we could actually maybe have control of that."
Other counties are passing similar resolutions. Madison County unanimously passed the legislation at its meeting this week, and about 100 lawmakers, including Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner have signed a letter opposing the governor's plan.