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Local Attorney Seeks To Reinstate Five-Percent Cap on Tax Rate Hikes In Oswego

OSWEGO, NY – At Monday night’s Common Council meeting, councilors were presented with a petition to reinstate the five-percent cap on the tax rate increases.

Local attorney Kevin Caraccioli told the council he is a resident of the city as well as a business and property owner in Oswego as well. Years ago, he added, he served as vice chair of the city’s Charter Revision Committee.

Kevin Caraccioli presents his petitions to the Common Council on Monday night.
Kevin Caraccioli presents his petitions to the Common Council on Monday night.

“I am here tonight to follow up on an initiative I introduced to you a little more than five months ago – to seek an amendment to the city charter to reinstate the five-percent cap on the tax rate from one budget to the next. Under New York State law, in order to change the city charter through public referendum a minimum number of registered voters living in the city of Oswego equal to 10 percent of the number of voters who voted for the governor in 2010 must sign a petition; that number is 432. Through the efforts of many motivated and concerned citizens, I am presenting 527 valid petitions for your consideration,” he told the councilors.

A word about those who signed.

They include people from all political affiliations, young and older residents, small business owners and those with management experience with some of the largest employers in the county, he said.

They are doctors, lawyers, teachers, accountants and every other socio-economic demographic that is living in the city of Oswego, he added.

“In short, this effort represents a good cross-section of the residents of our community. And, for every one who signed this petition, there are five more willing to sign,” Caraccioli said.

As a municipal lawyer with nearly 25 years of legal experience advising clients on all manner of municipal law, including the adoption of an annual budget, “I understand and appreciate the difficult task that you have in managing the financial affairs of the city, preparing a budget and ensuring that essential services are in place for the residents, businesses and guests of the city. So, I applaud your willingness to seek elected office; but it is an office that comes with much responsibility,” he said.

According to Caraccioli:
Oswego is one of the highest taxed communities, per capita, not just in the county, not just in the state but in the United States of America.

City government cannot be the employer of first resort. It must be the employer of last resort.

This provision, if adopted, will free city government to think creatively on how best to function for the betterment of everyone.

“There will be hard time if this measure passes, for sure. But we can no longer continue of policy of benefiting a few while many more sacrifice and suffer,” he said. “Change is not to be feared but rather embraced. For when necessity forces us to change the way we conduct ourselves it is surprising how much we can do by giving change a chance.”

The untapped potential within the Port City is remarkable, he said, adding that harnessing the creativity, energy and spirit that has always motivated people and society to improve themselves “is a challenge we all should look forward to meeting.”

Caraccioli called his plan “the essence of democracy in action; allowing people to determine how they wish to be governed and ensuring that their voice will always have a say in the democratic process of governing.”

“I don’t come here tonight with any magic solutions to the difficult state of affairs that we find ourselves in,” he admitted, “But, this initiative is a start in the right direction in my opinion and in the opinion of many more.”

He urged the councilors to let the residents of the community know that they share their concerns.

The council has the power to short-circuit the process by placing the matter before the voters in November, he pointed out.

“In that regard, I am willing to assist,” he offered. “Failing to respond or delaying the process will only serve to infuriate an already upset population and ensure that your energy and resources will be wasted when they can be best utilized working through these issues in a collective, creative and innovative way.”

“Let’s show the rest of the county and the state that the city of Oswego can and will be a leader when it comes to budget reform; utilizing bold and creative measures to ensure that what occurred last December will never happen again,” he added.

Following Monday night’s meeting, Council President Ron Kaplewicz said the councilors will consider Caraccioli’s suggestion.

6 Comments

  1. They should do much more than consider it. They should implement it!! I would question the legality of how the original tax cap was rescinded in the first place. If you have a smart business man willing to help, it would behoove the council to accept what it is being offered! Just one opinion of a community, tax burdened member.

  2. I am a small business owner in the City of Oswego. I am also a long-term resident (45 years), and property owner for 31 years. In the years I have resided in Oswego, I have seen a lot of positive change, downtown as an example, with the return of small eateries, and small retail outlets with specialty goods.

    However, AS a small business owner, every time taxes go up, I feel a hit to my profit margin, just as these eateries and small outlets must do. This is known as trickle down economics. When my customers pay more to provide the basic necessities: heat/lights, food, snow removal, and, where City taxes affect them the most: housing, there is much less to spend on non-necessities that many have come to accept as quality of life items. Cable and telephones are now quality of life ‘necessities,’ for instance, yet, once paid (and Time Warner is increasing costs, for example), what is left to eat out with, to buy nice gift items, or even…a used book?

    The increase in taxes, therefore, doesn’t just affect my properties, it affects the sales tax revenue many small businesses collect to help defray property taxes. Personally, not only do I have to pay $500.00 more at my store location with the most recent tax increase, but I have to ‘find’ another equal if not greater amount for my residence, while my shoppe is bringing in less and less profit as other residents have the same burden. A domino effect that cannot maintain itself for very long…

    So, we need to keep this ever increasing tax burden off the shoulders of the few. Because even though government salaries may return to the coffers in the form of property taxes, that is not new money, a basic economic fact. The money for those salaries are part of the costs of running the City. And those monies originate from private sector workers. It’s a difficult situation. We want the services, but many of us can no longer afford to PAY for the “luxuries” we’ve come to expect. Nation-wide, but nowhere more so than the heavily taxed cities in NYS like Oswego.

    The buck has to stop here. Or we need to figure out another way to live!

    Debbie Engelke
    Time & Again Books & Tea

  3. I agree with everything said Kelly do more than consider it etc.. I would like to sign the petition. I am wondering why they raised taxes in our Oswego City in the first place. It seems you are always putting it on our community, but you give raise to yourselves. I feel you say we don’t have money but you can give 20.000 raises to yourselves. This isn’t right. What is going on at city hall. You sure are not looking out for the people. I understand to the Oswego Police Dept. and Fire Dept. because you did away with code enforcement and put it all on them. I feel the Mayor, councilors should start using common sense and really think before you jump. I heard you fired Mary Vanhouse and then you went in behind close session and you came out a gave her job back. OK why and what happened to make a difference. Did you know it’s illegal to do this at a Common Council meeting, are you all afraid to let the community to hear what you are saying. Let’s start telling the truth about really whats going on in our city. Should there be a investigation what going on in city hall?

  4. I don’t mind the 5% tax cap and putting it on the ballot is great. What bothered me is the quoting of Cuomos statistics in relation to the issue. It left a false impression on who is to blame for our high taxes and diminishes the credibility of his argument. Our former 2% cap was lifted on the strong suggestion of our state government and Cuomo himself. Our counselors complied with the states suggestion. Cuomo’s plan requires us, in the future, to keep below a 2% cap by consolidating offices and services and then he promises those communities that comply will get money from the state. Yes our taxes are higher than most cities and towns across the country, but NOT higher than most cities and towns across the state and our counselors have only managed to keep them lower by being very frugal. One big problem that is crushing our budget is the state mandates, and fines if we don’t comply. Evidence of this immediately followed as our council voted against paying a long list of bills submitted as cost overruns to meet the state mandates, then proceeded to a closed session where it was determined if we didn’t pay these bills we would be fined again. They returned and reversed the vote. The state keeps promising relief if we meet the mandates but we never have received any concrete specifics on what this relief will consist of and the state keeps changing the rules. If you feel a need to place blame please place it where it belongs…on the state and federal government not our council.

  5. Sue, they didn’t ‘vote against’ the change orders. Those resolutions were merely tabled. The council took a recess; it didn’t go into an executive session. They talked about why the work was needed and where the money would come from – the project’s contingency. Then they removed the resolutions from the table and voted on them.

  6. I would like to learn more about the water and sewer bill!! People seem to forget that this bill has continually went higher and higher! Taxes are out of control in this City! They are forcing long time residents out!

    I also would like to point out that they used money out of the water and sewer fund to pay for the employees they were going to furlough and ended up not doing. Very small piece in the paper about that. My point with the money used out of that fund is that it is for WATER AND SEWER not for anything else!

    Something has to give and it is time for the residents of this community to put our foot down! Bring me a petition Kevin I’ll sign one gladly!

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