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William R. Steinhaus, County Executive
Steinhaus Budget Under Property Tax Cap, Maintains Vital Services
Impact to homeowners about $20 per year
Poughkeepsie… On Tuesday, November 1st, Dutchess County Executive William R. Steinhaus released his 2012 Executive Budget plan, keeping the county property tax levy under the new New York State property tax levy cap and maintaining vital county government services such as 911 dispatch, Sheriff’s road patrols, snow plowing, park operations, road and bridge maintenance and repairs and more. State mandates consume a significant percentage of the 2012 Dutchess County budget and created enormous challenges to remaining under the property tax levy cap.
Dutchess County Director of the Division of Real Property Tax, Eric Axelsen, confirms staying under the property tax levy cap will mean, on balance, county property taxpayers will see their property tax bill increase by approximately $20 for a homeowner in 2012. The change in dollar amount is not great because county government’s portion of the total tax bill is very small. County government share of the property tax bill is only about 14% of the property taxes collected countywide with the remainder comprised of school taxes, municipal town, village or city taxes and special district taxes.
“The overall impact of this 2012 budget proposal is less than forty cents per week for homeowners, but it is very frustrating to us to know we could have kept more money in homeowners’ pockets if not for the state mandates that consume our property tax levy,” concluded County Executive Steinhaus.
However, the actual impact on an individual tax bill will vary from town to town based on local assessments and state equalization rates, both factors beyond the county’s control. If not for the burden of state mandated costs, county property taxes would have likely seen a decrease in county property taxes for 2012.
To provide some context in raw dollar amounts, the following are the tax impacts for randomly selected properties valued at or about $261,300 (current median equalized assessed value for a single family home), representing various geographical areas of Dutchess County.
|Town||Street Location|| 2011
|East Fishkill||Fishkill Hook Road||$833.85||$852.82||$18.97|
|Pine Plains||Woodside Street||$841.73||$849.49||$ 7.76|
|Poughkeepsie (Town)||Oakwood Drive||$832.32||$852.49||$20.17|
|Rhinebeck||State Quarry Road||$799.88||$852.16||$52.28|
|Dover||Lime Kiln Road||$850.21||$848.90||-$ 1.30|
“Because the County has seen its tax base shrink by nearly one billion dollars for 2012, even a levy under the property tax cap will produce a higher tax rate,” said Axelsen. “Because many individual assessments have gone down, the change in each homeowner’s personal tax bill will vary. While some will pay more, there will be some homeowners who pay about the same, and some who will even pay less in their actual annual tax bill.”
Many county property taxpayers are likely to be confused about why their property tax rate is going up if the county budget is under the new state property tax levy cap. In Dutchess County, the property tax levy cap calculation is 3.3%, based on a multi factor calculation formula provided by the New York State Comptroller’s Office. The calculations provided in the new state law do not apply to the calculation of the tax rate on real property parcels – the calculations strictly apply to the calculation of the real property tax levy itself. More information about how the real property tax levy percentage cap and the real property tax rate differ can be found on the New York State Government Finance Officers’ Association website at:
Remaining under the property tax levy cap is further complicated by the lack of state mandate relief that had been repeatedly promised by state lawmakers and Governor Cuomo with the passage of the tax cap legislation.
“We have made cuts and more cuts to nearly every area under our control, but Albany keeps demanding more money to pay for their mandated programs. Since 2007, county costs for state mandated programs have gone up by over $7 million!” said County Executive Steinhaus.
To deal with the impact of rising state mandated costs, Dutchess County government has taken numerous actions in recent years including:
• Realignment of nine executive departments into just four in 2011
• No COLA or CPI wages increase for the majority of county employees in recent years.
• More than 173 county positions eliminated since 2008. County government now operates with fewer county employees than in the mid-1980s.
• Employee travel and training cut 37% since 2007.
• Equipment purchases cut 79% since 2007.
• Communication costs cut 33% since 2007.
• Supplies cut 16% since 2007.
In 2012, there will be further realignment, restructuring and reform including a proposal to reform how the state mandated Indigent Legal Representation is delivered in Family Court, that will help ensure increased revenue of over $443,000 over the next two years while improving the quality of the representation.
There will be changes in the Department of Mental Hygiene as the Department discontinues its current Continuing Day Treatment program. New York State is changing its funding priorities to focus on “Personal Recovery Oriented Services” (PROS) Programming. To maximize funding and continue to deliver quality care, this new and different program will be operated by a community provider. This state paradigm shift will result in the elimination of 49 Mental Hygiene positions, 22 of which are currently filled, in the 2012 budget.
Even with all of the realignment, restructuring and reform Dutchess County government has undergone, a point has been reached where there are not enough funds to maintain local services that residents rely on AND to pay for the state mandated costs forced down from Albany.
County Executive Steinhaus’ 2012 budget maintains the local services residents value and challenges Albany lawmakers to keep their promises of mandate reform. The 2012 budget does not include any new property taxpayer money to pay for increased Medicaid payments and holds Medicaid spending flat. The budget proposal also reduces the county’s cost for the state mandated Early Intervention and Pre School Special Education programs. Both of these mandate allocations in the 2012 Dutchess budget rely on the Governor and state lawmakers to keep their word to enact and adopt state mandate reform.
“If the funds in the 2012 Dutchess budget are insufficient and the programs and services need to be suspended or the programs run out of money, all will know it is because the Governor and our state legislators broke their promise to the people of this state,” said Steinhaus.
Remaining under the property tax levy cap was a significant challenge because the necessary state mandate relief promised by both the Governor and state legislators was not delivered. The property tax levy cap legislation limits local tax increase, but the state is still requiring county governments to provide a broad range of state mandated services where costs continue to rise in the millions of dollars.
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