The enactment of New York’s local property tax cap has touched off a valuable ongoing debate on the role of state mandates in pushing up county, municipal and school  costs.  However, while local officials can make a compelling case for repeal of mandates like the Triborough amendment, they shouldn’t be let off the hook when it comes to self-inflicted wounds.

Take, for example, the town of Ramapo, whose bond rating was recently downgraded by Moody’s Investor Service. As the Journal News reported last week:

The town has $119 million in outstanding general obligation debt, of which $40.3 million is issued by the local development corporation and guaranteed by the town. The $40.3 million includes a $15.3 million loan from Provident Bank for the construction of phase one of the Ramapo Commons housing development and a $25 million bond that financed the construction of the [minor league] baseball stadium, which opened for its second season last week. Ramapo expects to pay off those guaranteed debts with proceeds from the sales of units at the apartment complex and revenues from the stadium — a repayment plan that the Moody’s report indicates could put the town’s stability at further risk.

The town-financed baseball park was the subject of a critical audit by the state comptroller last fall. However, the debt burden didn’t stop the town from recently getting Moody’s highest rating for a recent bond anticipation note issue of $15 million for further improvements around the baseball stadium.

Debt aside, Ramapo also has a heavy town payroll. With average salaries of $141,000 in 2011, Ramapo police ranked second among all town police in New York in 2011, according to the Empire Center’s annual municipal salary report. Police Chief Peter Brower was paid $247,325, making him the eighth highest-paid public official in New York.  Regular town employees were the fourth highest paid in New York, with an average salary of just over $64,000.

Ramapo is in Rockland County, now mired in its own fiscal crisis. And the town contains the East Ramapo school district, which was among the very few to see its budget rejected by voters on May 15.

Anyone still building minor league baseball stadiums in the name of economic development is asking for trouble.  However, while Ramapo’s irresponsibility may be relatively extreme as towns go, it is by no means exceptional in having to grapple with the consequences of its own bad decisions.  You can’t blame all local problems on Albany.

About the Author

E.J. McMahon

Edmund J. McMahon is Empire Center's founder and a senior fellow.

Read more by E.J. McMahon

You may also like

Counties’ Medicaid role dwindles

New enrollment numbers from the state-run health insurance exchange confirm a trend relevant to budget talks in Albany: The role of local governments in signing people up for Medicaid is smaller than ever. Read More

A lesson on apprenticeships

The raw politics behind giveaways to building trade unions were on display last week in Troy, a city outside Albany. Read More

Cuomo extends costly arbitration law

Three years ago, Governor Andrew Cuomo blew a rare opportunity to fundamentally reform one of the most costly provisions of the New York State law regulating public-sector collective bargaining. Now he's about to blow it again. Read More

Local govs score with better websites

In 2014, the Empire Center created guidelines for what information local governments and school districts should make available on their websites—and found that most of the state's 500 largest municipalities and districts were not meeting that standard. Read More

“Warning”: taxes might not rise

Don't look now, but given current inflation trends, next year's school property tax cap may be ... zero! That's the message of a statement released last week by the Educational Conference Board (ECB), a coalition of groups representing public school administrators, school boards and—last but hardly least—the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) labor union. The ECB's "warning" was meant as an inside-the-Albany-bubble scare tactic, but for most New Yorkers, it's good news: further confirmation that the tax cap is working exactly as intended. Read More

Local websites improve bit by byte

Good news to cap off Sunshine Week: at least some local government and school officials are working to make their websites more useful and informative. Read More

Local tax cap may dip in ’15

The property tax cap for New York counties, towns and villages with fiscal years starting January 1, 2015 will start at 1.56 percent, slightly lower than last year's starting rate of 1.66 percent. The cap in each locality will vary based on the amount of applicable allowable exclusions for growth in local property values. Localities also will be able to exclude the amount by which the change in pension contributions exceeds two percentage points Read More

Bill repeals local control of cop discipline

A bill rushed to passage by both houses of the Legislature last week would gut local control of police discipline by deeming it a subject of collective bargaining throughout the state. The bill can be seen as a fresh test of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's commitment to "transform" a state dominated by public employee unions. Read More

Subscribe

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

CONTACT INFORMATION

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

About

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!