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Tax Cap Affects Budgets for Villages, Schools

Under a new law just signed on Thursday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New York residents won’t be seeing property tax increases above two percent a year—or at the rate of inflation, if it’s less.

The law is intended to provide relief to homeowners, such as those in the Tarrytowns area, because they pay some of the highest property taxes in the United States. Local communities can override the law with 60 percent of voter approval.

For local officials, the tax cap means they’ll have to tighten their budgets, especially because the state is cutting aid and keeping in expensive mandates. Tarrytowns Unified Free School District Superintendent Howard Smith said the tax cap had the potential to be “pretty dramatic.”

“Costs will go up,” he said, noting the district is predicting a revenue shortfall of $2 million.

The district had a tough budget this year as well, Smith noted. He said parents don’t want to see larger class sizes. They also don’t want to see cuts to sports, arts or class electives. That means there are aren’t a lot of areas where the district can look to cut costs.

Smith said the district was looking at different approaches to figure out what they’ll need to do but that they hadn’t gotten to specifics yet.

Sleepy Hollow Mayor Ken Wray addressed the tax cap during Tuesday’s Board of Trustees meeting, citing his objections because “there are several state-mandated things that we have no control over that the state forces us to maintain.”

Sleepy Hollow’s last four budgets have averaged under a two percent increase, according to Wray, but “that’s not something that’s always possible to do.” Wray noted that this year’s budget was close to a four percent increase in property taxes.

The village has already started to look at where it could save money, discussing a potential waste management study during their last work session. Wray said now that the tax cap has been passed, trustees would need to keep it in mind when looking at where they wanted or needed to spend money.

“It means that things are going to be as tight as we thought they would be, perhaps tighter,” he said, “and that, as I said, we’re going to have to scrutinize everything now in preparation for our budget talks—our beginning budget talks—in January next year knowing that this tax cap that’s going to be in place for the 2012 fiscal year.

Neither Tarrytown Mayor Drew Fixell or Village Administrator Michael Blau were available for comment.

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