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Syracuse council rejects waiving NY's 2% tax cap

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO Public Media
Syracuse common councilors.

As the Syracuse Common Council continues to go over Mayor Ben Walsh’s proposed budget, the council rejected a proposal to waive New York State’s 2% tax cap. Those against it said it would essentially authorize the city to go over the cap. But supporters of the proposed law said it would protect the city from additional penalties.

If Walsh's budget goes into effect, a tax increase would be higher than the state's 2% tax cap, which would then eliminate the STAR property tax credit for homeowners. But the city’s corporation counsel said without a law waiving the tax cap, it would require the city to set up a reserve fund where any excess amount of money would be placed and used to offset next year’s tax levy. Councilor-at-Large Steven Thompson called it a straitjacket.

"If we have not sent this local law to the state, the taxes will be raised, the STAR will not be available, and the taxes will go in reserve so they won't be used for any services or repairs or anything else," Thompson said. "To have the money, have residents taxed and not be able to use it, is a real kick.”

But Councilor-at-Large Tim Rudd said he would be fine with it. 

“I don’t want to blow the cap," Rudd said. "I’m definitely not voting for anything that says, let’s blow the cap. I want to amend the budget and protect the STAR exemptions and everything else.”

Councilors for and against the proposal to waive the tax cap agree, they would prefer to find savings to stay under the cap. Corporation counsel said even after a budget is adopted, special assessments could inadvertently push calculations over the cap. The council needs at least six councilors to make veto-proof changes to the budget, which will be voted on next month. 

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.