The Essex County Board of Supervisors voted to override the New York state-imposed 2 percent tax cap after a public hearing on the topic Dec. 5.
The hearing preceded the much anticipated hearing on the tentative 2012 county budget, where people overwhelmingly asked supervisors to add funding for several agencies and services back into the budget.
The override passed by a 60 percent majority in the regular meeting of the board that followed the two public hearings. Only Jay Supervisor and board Chairman Randall “Randy” Douglas and Wilmington Supervisor Randy Preston voted against the override.
“I think that there are still things that we can look at,” Douglas said. “I have seen what other counties have done and I want to see what we can do to get this down to 2 percent. If we do that, my hope is that next year the state will come back with some significant mandate relief.”
“People asked the state for property tax relief and the state gave it to them,” Preston said. “We should have done everything in our power to abide by it.”
Only one member of the audience spoke at the public hearing asking the board to consider overriding the cap.
Supervisors then took up the discussion.
“I feel that we have no choice,” St. Armand Supervisor and budget committee chairwoman Joyce Morency said. “The revenue loss from the state is serious, and we are doing this because we really have no choice.”
“This gives us an option,” Westport Supervisor Dan Connell said. “Without it, we would be in a situation where we would have to cut things that we do not want to cut.”
“I do not think that we are going to have a choice,” Chesterfield Supervisor Gerald Morrow said. “Look at all of the cuts that the budget committee has presented, and we are still not there.”
“I am a realist, and after working on this budget for four months, it would be impossible to come in under the cap,” Moriah Supervisor and budget liaison Thomas “Tom” Scozzafava said. “In this budget right now, we don’t even have money to patch potholes.”
“The state decided that a property tax cap was appropriate,” County Manager Daniel Palmer said. “The problem is that they applied it across the board and you have to look at all of it, including tax rate and assessments. You can’t just look at one part.”
Along with the cap override, the board also unanimously seconded a resolution asking the state to pass a bill implementing a multi-year state takeover of the local share of Medicaid.
“If there is one way that everyone here can support us, it is to go to your state representatives and tell them that we need the state to take over the local share of Medicaid,” Douglas said.