Budget deficits papered over with borrowed money and fiscal gimmicks. Unaffordable union contracts. Pension contributions “amortized” into the future. Retiree health benefits promised but unfunded. Corruption probes and whiffs of scandal. Accountability blurred, responsibility shirked, and hard decisions avoided again and again.
That litany could describe any number of old, declining American cities—including a few that, like Detroit, actually went broke. But the same dysfunction exists in affluent corners of New York’s archetypal suburb: Long Island
All the checks dilute the intent of trying to lower people’s tax bills, said E.J. McMahon, president of the Empire Center, a fiscally conservative think tank in Albany.
Long Island town officials are crying the blues over the budgetary squeeze supposedly created by the state’s property-tax cap. They’re not alone: You’ll hear much the same from town pols elsewhere in the metro region and across New York state.
But the thrust of their complaints — that the tax cap is somehow blocking urgent public projects and programs — just won’t hold water.
Before area taxpayers and their counterparts statewide get too excited over the looming lower property tax hike for next year, they need to be mindful of the other side of the coin.
The starting point for computing next year's local property tax cap in most of New York State will be less than 1 percent—and so state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli is warning local governments "brace for ... [lower] growth in property tax revenues."
DiNapoli's tone clearly implies that a lower tax cap is a negative. But most property owners will no doubt see it another way.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and state legislative leaders would have you believe that they just approved "property tax cuts for homeowners," as described in their joint announcement of an end-of-session deal last week.
Don't believe them.
E.J. McMahon thinks it’s more about bolstering talking points for state lawmakers. “This is reverse-engineered from the press release they wanted to issue, which is: ‘We did property tax relief,’ ” said McMahon, president of the fiscally conservative watchdog Empire Center for Public Policy.
EJ McMahon, president of the right-leaning Empire Center for Public Policy, said the rebate plan was an electioneering gambit, and that the money would be better used to finance infrastructure improvements, deferred pension contributions or provide tax relief to all New Yorkers, including commercial property owners and renters, who won't qualify for a Son of STAR check.