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.
“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.