Village of Mount Morris proposes to override tax cap

     The village of Mount Morris is proposing to override New York State’s 2 percent tax cap in order to protect against financial penalties, should the town or village exceed the tax limit.

     Establishing an exemption to the recently adopted state law, which limits the growth of local property taxes to 2 percent, would serve as a precautionary measure to protect the village should unexpected expenses arise that break the cap. Exceeding the 2 percent tax cap without establishing an exemption would result in financial penalties from the state.

     In a public hearing, Mayor Harold Long emphasized that establishing an exemption to the state law would not mean that the village is planning to exceed the cap, and that the local government is committed to keeping taxes below the 2 percent mark. 

     According to Village Treasurer Cheryl Cappadonia, while the village is doing its best to keep the budget under the cap, possible unexpected expenses could arise while building the village’s new $3 million fire hall. The new fire hall, which was approved last March, is set to begin construction this year. 

     “When [the village votes] for a $3 million fire hall, we have to figure in where our money’s coming from,” she said. “We’re trying to keep everything under the cap; it’s not our intention to go over it. I’m a taxpayer too. Trust me, I don’t want my taxes to go up.”

     Cappadonia explained that the exemption acts as a kind of insurance policy that protects the village should it need to exceed the cap, quoting a November memo from the New York Conference of Mayors that states, “There’s a potential for any local government to exceed the cap unintentionally.”

     “It doesn’t mean we’re raising the taxes 2 percent,” she said. 

     At the public hearing, Mayor Long said the village board will need to trim expenses from the $1.9 million preliminary budget in order to meet the two-percent tax cap. The town board is also preparing its 2012 budget and looking for ways to reduce costs without reducing the quality of services.

     Cost reductions have begun through health insurance changes which require new employees to pay 30 percent of their insurance costs, and a 14 percent reduction of the fire protection tax levy in negotiation with the village board. The town board also eliminated a clerical position in the highway department.

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