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Voters to decide fate of Oswego's property tax cap proposal

Gino Geruntino
Members of the Oswego Dept. of Public Works wait to see if the 2014 budget is passed. The department was prepared for major cuts to its staff, but the jobs were saved.

On Tuesday the city of Oswego will decide whether it wants to bring back a five percent property tax cap, but many of the city's elected officials warn that it could come with some unintended consequences.

The proposed property tax cap would force Oswego to keep any tax increases to less than five percent. If the city raises taxes more than that, Oswego residents would have to vote to approve the budget. If that fails, the city must reduce the budget to keep the increase below the threshold.

Oswego Mayor Tom Gillen says the measure looks great on paper, but could be difficult to stick to in years to come.

"And then when we do face that inevitable time when, it probably will happen, that we have to consider more than a five percent tax increase," Gillen said. "You look at what the counties are going through, what the towns are going through, you know, every one of them is more than five percent."

Oswego attorney Kevin Caraccioli, who got the tax measure put on the ballot earlier this summer, says voters should have some input when it comes to how their money is spent.

"In this day and age, people want to have that type of say and this may be their one and only chance to do that," Caraccioli said.

He began collecting petition signatures following last year's 43 percent property tax hike. Caraccioli says the year before that, the city rose taxes 11 percent.

"In my opinion, this five percent tax cap is just the start of what needs to occur in order for this city to rebound and become even better," Caraccioli explained.

Caraccioli says he thinks the tax cap is a unique challenge for city officials, and that shouldn't be feared, but embraced by the city.

"If the budget is managed properly and additional other ideas on how we do business going forward, if those are implemented, those concerns are going to be lessened," Caraccioli said.

Gillen says he understands why the measure is popular withe the city's property owners, but it puts the city in an difficult position.

"It's really tough to plan and to do the right thing for the city when you're basically handcuffed like that," the mayor explained.

He stresses that the city needs to have faith in its elected officials, and trust they will make the right decisions.

"A responsible government is being honest with the people," Gillen said. "And sometimes when something happens that is unforeseen, or something that is planned that is more than five percent, it doesn't mean that it's a bad thing. It's something that we have to accept. Families deal with this all the time. It's the old kitchen table resolution."

Both Gillen and Caraccioli say they believe the measure will pass by a comfortable margin.