County endorses alternative tax plan

JOHNSTOWN – The Fulton County Board of Supervisors went on record Monday supporting what it says is a “better” property tax reduction plan, as an alternative to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s tax-freeze initiative.

In the alternative plan – outlined by the state Association of Counties – Fulton County residents would see a 23 percent reduction in their property taxes.

The resolution passed at County Office Building notes Cuomo included about $1 billion in the 2014-15 executive budget proposal to promote property tax relief through a “temporary” freeze.

“It’s very convoluted and complicated in the next two or three years,” said county Administrative Officer Jon Stead.

But the resolution passed Monday calls upon Cuomo and members of the state Senate and Assembly to adopt legislation directing the $1 billion in “set aside” funding for tax relief to be allocated to lower property taxpayers’ Medicaid burden by 44 percent.

Cuomo in January proposed a two-year freeze on property taxes in school districts and localities that stay within the 2 percent tax cap. The proposal would have to be adopted into law by the state Legislature. Cuomo’s proposal will freeze property taxes for two years, subject to two conditions.

In year one, the state will only provide tax rebates to homeowners who live in a jurisdiction that stays within the 2 percent property tax cap. In year two, the state will only provide tax rebates to homeowners who live in a locality that stays within the cap and also agrees to implement a shared services or administrative consolidation plan.

According to the board resolution, the state Association of Towns says the freeze will only benefit 25 to 33 percent of taxpayers.

“Less than one-third of taxpayers would actually see rebates,” Stead said.

The “simpler plan” reported through NYSAC, the resolution says, would result in a reduction of over $250 per year for the average Fulton County homeowner with a $100,000 home. Taxpayers in the county would receive a 23 percent reduction in county property taxes through the alternative plan.

Perth Supervisor Gregory Fagan, chairman of the board’s Finance Committee, said the tax reduction plan resolution was “probably the most important resolution” passed Monday.

In a press release issued Tuesday by the county, Fagan stated: “There really is no comparison. The freeze guarantees a continuation of taxes that are already too high and a majority of people won’t even qualify for the rebate. The counties’ plan lowers property taxes. I’m sure people in my town would rather have a reduction.”

Gloversville 4th Ward Supervisor Charles Potter added: “This is about improving the local economy. A plan that actually lowers the tax burden on our businesses will spur investment and hiring. If the state’s surplus can be used to reduce property taxes, that’s definitely the way to go.”

Board Chairman Rick Argotsinger stated in the release: “In this state, your property tax bill includes Medicaid. Reduce that cost and you reduce property taxes plain and simple.”

Stead told the board he did some research into the impact of all combined taxes for a taxpayer in Fulton County -county, municipal and school taxes. He said the highest paying taxpayer in the county would see a roughly $122 reduction under Cuomo’s plan, while the same person under the alternative plan would see a $433.78 reduction.

The board passed the resolution with a unanimous second.

Gloversville 3rd Ward Supervisor Michael F. Gendron warned his colleagues to be cautious.

“Just be careful with unanimous seconds,” he said. “There’s always a minority opinion.”