Last Wednesday at the New Windsor Town Board Meeting, a public hearing was held to consider a law that would allow the board to override the real property tax levy limit established by New York State.
General Municipal Law 3-C establishes limits on real property tax levies by local governments.
“We have to approve and create a local law, before the budget is adopted and finalized. In the event for some unforeseen reason, it has to go over,” said Councilmember Eric Lundstrum. “The current property tax cap is at two percent. The proposed law falls into subsection 5 of General Municipal Law 3-C. “
Subsection 5 establishes that a budget can be established requiring a tax levy greater than the limit under the grounds that there is “a local law to override such limit for such coming fiscal year.” This law can only be approved with at least 60 percent of the board voting in approval. If in the budget there is no need for an override, the law will be reversed.
Throughout the hearing, there were tense moments between board members and residents. Residents asked the board, if they had the budget numbers. “I know you have a budget, but what is your budgetary increase in taxes,” asked Ron Eaton, resident of New Windsor. The board responded that there still wasn’t an official budget at the time. The preliminary budget was presented to the town clerk on October 6. After the town board does reviews and changes, the budget will be voted on.
Throughout the hearing, residents and town board members jostled over what the public hearing was truly about. “You don’t know what you’re voting on in respects to the tax levy, period,” said Eaton.
Lundstrom questioned if Eaton understood the ongoing situation. “What we’re doing tonight is passing the local law, authorizing us if the need arises, to override the tax limit” said Eaton. “We’re not approving any dollar amount.”
Eaton attempted to continue the conversation but was abruptly cut off by Lundstrom. Residents suggested that the town board attempt at all costs to keep all expenditures within its means. “What I would suggest you do is go up to the state, and ask them to amend the law,” responded Lundstrom. “Because the only reason we’re going through this exercise is to abide with New York State law.”
The public comments ended with multiple residents asking that the board delay the hearing until a later date due to the lack of a preliminary budget. The hearing ended at an evident miscommunication between the public and the board.
Still, the board voted to adopt the law. “Your comments have been taken and will be taken into consideration,” Said Lundstrom. “We are not immune to those and we share so many of your concerns.
Unfortunately, we are bound by state law and government protocol here.”