County OKs tax-cap override option
JOHNSTOWN – For the third consecutive year, the Fulton County Board of Supervisors on Monday gave itself the option to override the property-tax cap in the county’s 2014 budget.
The state gives county governments the option of overriding the cap.
The county’s levy limit for 2014 hasn’t been set yet by the state comptroller’s office, but board members said Monday the county needs to have the override option in place.
“It allows this board to build the most responsible budget for this county,” said Perth Supervisor Greg Fagan.
The board voted 15-2, with three absent, to pass the local override law. County Administrative Officer Jon Stead said the vote translated to a 403-72 weighted vote, which meets the 331 weighted votes, or 60 percent, required for the board needed to pass the override option.
No one spoke at a public hearing on the local law.
Adoption of the 2014 county budget will come in late November or early December.
The county approved the tax-cap override option the previous two years. Supervisors overrode the tax-levy cap by 1.7 percent in 2012 but stayed under the cap in this year’s budget.
The state imposes a cap on tax-levy increases for mu-
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nicipalities, although the size of the cap varies by municipality based on a formula.
“The initial start of the budget process has begun,” said board Chairman William Waldron.
He said letters have been sent to county department heads asking for their tentative budgets. Board committees will review proposals in July and August.
“That will be coming up this summer,” Waldron said.
Johnstown 1st Ward Supervisor Richard Handy, who, along with Broadalbin Supervisor Joseph DiGiacomo, voted against the override law, said the county was just starting the budget process. He asked why the county was rushing to pass the override law.
“The objective is to bypass the state and follow all the requirements,” Waldron said.
He said the objective will be to have no tax increase, or even a tax decrease next year.
Stead noted supervisors only were voting to “allow” an override if needed.
“One of the concerns we are struggling with is the state comptroller’s office is coming up with new interpretations,” he said.
“This year, as this progresses, they’re looking at a lot of different charge-backs,” he said. “Part of the confusion is we really just want to know what the rules are.”
Stead said county Budget Director Alice Kuntzsch is trying to learn the latest information from the state for the upcoming county budget.
“[State officials] don’t even know what all the interpretations of the law are,” Waldron said.
Bleecker Supervisor David Howard said the state keeps “moving the goal post.”
Northampton Supervisor Linda Kemper said state government is getting to the point where it is increasing “everything” and shifting the burden to the counties.
“We have done our job, in my eyes,” Kemper said. “Unfortunately, the state has to do [its] part.”
Michael Anich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.