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County To Hold Public Hearing On Tax Cap Tuesday

OSWEGO, NY – The Oswego County Legislature will hold a public hearing at 2 p.m. Tuesday regarding “a local law overriding the tax levy limit for fiscal year 2012.”

Overriding the NYS property tax cap would be a protective measure, only, county officials said.

According to Phil Church, county administrator, adoption of this local law will protect the county taxpayers from being penalized (potentially several million dollars) in a future NYS Comptroller audit that doesn’t account for the county’s unique situation regarding the expiring nuclear plant tax agreements.

Recently, the state enacted a property tax cap that gives the state comptroller the power to audit municipalities’ compliance with the cap.

Governments that don’t comply, for whatever reason, will be penalized by being forced to establish a reserve fund that consists of the amount of error the comptroller calculates. The entire fund must be used in the ensuing budget year to lower the tax levy.

This has the same effect as using too much fund balance in a budget; it creates a revenue deficit in the following year and forces a high tax increase, the administrator noted.

The tax cap also provides local governments with the option of overriding the cap with a 60 percent majority vote of the governing board.

For counties, this override must be in the form of a local law adopted before the 2012 budget is adopted, Church explained.

Oswego County will be able to comply with the tax limitations of the cap. But, lack of clear state guidance on issues concerning debt and tax-bill-chargebacks and more significantly, Oswego County’s unique situation regarding the nuclear plants tax agreements, makes an override this year worth serious consideration, he added.

“After researching the law, projecting various possible scenarios and seeking guidance from the State Comptroller, Department of State and the State Attorney General, it is clear that Oswego County is in a no-win situation with the tax cap formula, unless we approve an override to void it,” he told legislators recently.