CHENANGO COUNTY – With a new state fiscal year starting April 1, many New York counties, including Chenango County, are pushing a proposal they believe would be more beneficial to local taxpayers than the property tax freeze presented in the 2014 executive budget.
As a finalized budget could head to vote in Albany as early as Monday, the New York State Association of Counties (NYSAC) is calling on the state to take on the full burden of Medicaid costs which are being footed by counties. This move could ease the burden of local taxpayers in a simpler way than the proposed property tax freeze, NYSAC argues, and prove to be a better long-term solution.
As proposed by Governor Andrew Cuomo, the property tax freeze is subject to certain conditions. In the first year, the municipality and school district must adhere to the state mandated 2 percent tax cap. In the second year, taxing jurisdictions must adhere to the cap but also enter a shared services or consolidation agreement with other jurisdictions. By year three, the tax freeze ends and property tax circuit breaker that bases property tax payment on taxpayers’ incomes goes into effect.
But NYSAC says the tax freeze is too cumbersome. If the state assumes costs of state-run programs like Medicaid – as most other states do – it could mean as much as a 44 percent reduction in each counties human services costs. That translates to big savings for taxpayers.
It's a proposal that has been offered to state legislators before, explained New York Assemblyman Clifford Crouch (R–122nd District). “I proposed a similar idea several years ago, when counties were cutting road repairs just to keep their budgets in line,” he said. “I know what the burden is for many counties. Upstate municipalities wrote the book on how to save money and do things together because that's what they have to do.”
Crouch added that having the state shoulder the costs of Medicaid would be a “heavy lift for the state budget.” However, he said a gradual assumption of Medicaid costs over five or six years would be a feasible way to ease the local tax burden...