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September 25, 2018

Tax Cap Mumbo Jumbo Demystified During Fulton Public Hearing


FULTON, NY – At the conclusion of a public hearing on the matter, Fulton City Common Councilors voted unanimously to override state law by enacting a local law allowing the city’s 2015 budgeted tax levy to exceed the General Municipal Law limit if the need arises.

“This is the same proposed law that was passed last year, isn’t it?” Fulton resident Dennis Merlino asked during the public hearing.

Mayor Ronald Woodward explains political mumbo jumbo during a public hearing.

Mayor Ronald Woodward explains political mumbo jumbo during a public hearing.

“We do it every year and just about every city does,” Mayor Ronald Woodward said. “And that does not indicate an intent to pass a tax levy in excess of the limit. The limit that the state of New York put on the municipalities was pretty much purely political mumbo jumbo.”

Merriam-Webster defines mumbo jumbo as “complicated activity or language usually intended to obscure and confuse.”

“Along with the goals that went with (originally enacting the law) it was done more to promote the election of the governor and certain legislators,” Woodward said. “But, what happens is, if the city passes a budget and there is no tax increase, and there is any flaw whatsoever in that budget, then the state mandates the city to set aside in reserve that money from whichever (part of the) budget there was excess money.”

He added, “It’s another example of Big Brother knowing what’s best for us farmers.”

Merlino asked what would happen if the measure was not passed and there was a flaw in the budget, “Could the city be fined?”

“They don’t fine the city,” the mayor responded. “They make us restrict the spending in that part of the budget where we may have under spent or didn’t calculate the right cost.”

Merlino asked if healthcare bills were astronomical for some unknown reason, would that effect the calculations.

“One of the biggest criticisms we got from the comptroller’s office … was that we didn’t budget accurate amounts for our healthcare,” the mayor explained.

The city is self-insured for health insurance, and Woodward noted it is impossible to accurately determine future healthcare costs. “I can’t tell you right now who’s going to get sick next year, how sick, or how many of his family members are going to get sick,” he said. “Yet we were criticized for not having that crystal ball to see and predict the overruns that we’ve had.”

Woodward noted that the self-insured’s overruns in healthcare would be better controlled by the New York State Legislature controlling the costs of healthcare, rather than passing the costs on to the property tax payers.

“But that’s not going to happen,” the mayor said, “because it’s not politically correct.”

“So passing this local law is a no-brainer,” Merlino said.

“It’s a no-brainer,” Woodward said.

With no other questions and the end of the public hearing, Councilors agreed to attend a budget workshop meeting Thursday at 6 p.m. to discuss the proposed 2015 spending plan currently being prepared by the mayor.

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