Gov. Andrew Cuomo released a list of 225 elected officials from across New York state this week who have shown support for his plan to freeze property taxes.
The list contained 13 from Chautauqua County, including county legislator George Borrello, R-Irving, and LeeAnn Lazarony, mayor of Cassadaga.
Cuomo’s plan was discussed heavily in his State of the State address in January, and would affect communities where local governments have taken steps to consolidate services, while providing relief based on an individual homeowner’s ability to pay.
The governor’s plan, however, has received both criticism and support from the Republican Party.
Borrello said he believes the context of the tax freeze is beneficial, yet said there are issues.
“It’s not a perfect plan, but I’ll take it over no plan at all,” Borrello said. “It’s the first time anyone at the state level, especially in the governor’s office, has recognized that property taxes need to be reduced. We need to start recognizing that they are part of the reason we can’t keep people here, retain jobs and bring businesses into our state.”
He added that there are plenty of other issues he’d like to see addressed, such as welfare reform and unfunded state mandates.
Still, property tax reform is a step in the right direction, he said.
“We have to look outside the box when it comes to being fiscally responsible for the taxpayers,” Lazarony said, adding that a different approach must be taken in terms of funding goods and services in local communities. “We pay a lot of money for those services, which we need, but everybody needs to trim the fat off, I think.”
Assemblyman Andy Goodell, R-Jamestown, has stated his concerns since the plan was proposed.
“I agree with the governor that we need to bring property taxes down in New York state,” he said, adding that each of the top 10 counties in the nation with the highest property tax rates are in New York.
On the other hand, Goodell said Cuomo’s plan does not help the state’s poor business climate, which in turn affects individual taxpayers.
“Ironically, it encourages those municipalities staying below the tax cap to raise their tax rates (up to the cap), and actually raise their state aid,” he said.
For example, if a municipality wasn’t intending to increase taxes, under Cuomo’s proposal, the levy could be raised to just below the cap without costing residents any extra money, while the extra state aid could be used however the town or village wished.
Also, he said the plan rewards wealthy school districts staying below the tax cap by giving those school districts additional aid and punishing taxpayers on the other end of the spectrum.
“I think a better approach is to use the $400 million that the governor put aside for his tax freeze and reduce taxes for everyone across New York state, not just those who happen to live in a wealthy school district,” Goodell concluded.
Cuomo’s plan will be further discussed after the state budget is finalized. Officials face a Tuesday deadline.