webhome2-e1463578931750-150x150-8535634After another year of low inflation, most local governments will again base their tax caps on a growth factor of less than one percent.

For local governments with fiscal years beginning January 1, it will be 0.68 percent, down from 0.73 percent now. By comparison, school districts had an allowable growth factor of 0.12 percent during the 2016-17 school year.

The tax cap keeps the price of government from going up faster than the price of everything else. The root of the tax cap is a maximum allowable rate of growth on the total amount collected in property taxes, known as the tax levy. That rate is based on the change in the consumer price index during the one-year period ending six months prior to the start of the fiscal year, and is limited to two percent.

On top of this inflation-based growth factor, a local government’s tax cap rises to reflect the additional taxes collected from a growing local tax base.

Amidst consternation about the “low” cap, it’s important to note that local governments can always override the cap with a 60 percent supermajority. On a village board of three, that means mustering two votes. For a town board with five members, an override takes three votes. In fact, for most towns and villages, and even some cities, it takes just as many votes to override the cap as it does to pass a budget in the first place.

Meanwhile, counties have had the growth of one of their biggest cost drivers, Medicaid, completely frozen, and the state government is poised to pick up the tab for indigent legal defense, which cost the counties outside New York City $164 million in 2015.

The tax cap, championed by Governor Andrew Cuomo, has been protecting taxpayers exactly the way it’s supposed to. Taxpayers have saved at least $1 billion on school taxes alone since the cap’s creation in 2011, and the cap has survived repeated attempts to weaken it through amendments and litigation.

Unfortunately, the governor has yet to give local governments and school districts the structural mandate relief needed to do more with less.

The governor has refused to address the Triborough Amendment, a provision of the Taylor Law which protects work rules and automatic pay increases for public employees after their contracts expire—and puts public employers at a disadvantage at the negotiating table.

Most recently, the governor could have provided mandate relief simply by doing nothing at all: the state’s binding arbitration law, a sizable unfunded mandate on local governments with paid police or fire departments, was set to expire in June.

But the law was renewed, without any reforms, for another three years as part of the budget approved in April.

About the Author

Ken Girardin

Ken Girardin is the Empire Center’s Director of Strategic Initiatives.

Read more by Ken Girardin

You may also like

Voters Approve Nearly All School Budgets Within Tax Cap

School budget votes proposing an average increase in per pupil spending of 4.2 percent were overwhelmingly approved in state-wide voting held yesterday. Read More

School budgets sail under cap

Yesterday’s school budget votes proved once again New York’s school districts aren’t having much difficulty staying under—or overriding—the property tax cap. Read More

One-house megabucks

With the clock ticking toward the April 1 start of the next state fiscal year, Assembly Democrats just laid out their budget preferences—and, as usual, they add up to a massive tax-and-spend fantasy. Read More

Tax cap fibs test limits

Government unions aren’t letting the facts get in the way of their opposition to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s push for a permanent property tax cap. Testifying in Albany this month on Cuomo’s FY20 Executive Budget, union leaders made a number of misrepresentations regarding the cap, which since 2011 has slowed the growth of property taxes outside New York City. Read More

Cuomo holding strong on tax cap

Governor Andrew Cuomo on Friday laid down an important marker in his push to make the property tax cap permanent, rejecting changes that would weaken it. Read More

Assembly GOP wants higher taxes

Assembly Republicans, who ought to know better, have issued a proposal that would weaken the state’s property tax cap. Read More

Tax cap keeps getting grief

Seven years after its enactment, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s cap on property tax levies continues to be a target of unfounded criticism by some politicians and candidates who either don’t understand the cap or deliberately misrepresent how it works. Read More

The tax cap is (still) working

Thirteen out of 16 New York school districts whose budgets were rejected by voters on May 15 were approved in re-votes held yesterday. Read More


Sign up to receive updates about Empire Center research, news and events in your email.


Empire Center for Public Policy
30 South Pearl St.
Suite 1210
Albany, NY 12207

Phone: 518-434-3100

General Inquiries: Info@EmpireCenter.org

Press Inquiries: Press@EmpireCenter.org


The Empire Center is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank located in Albany, New York. Our mission is to make New York a better place to live and work by promoting public policy reforms grounded in free-market principles, personal responsibility, and the ideals of effective and accountable government.

Empire Center Logo Enjoying our work? Sign up for email alerts on our latest news and research.
Together, we can make New York a better place to live and work!