PORT HENRY — Moriah Supervisor Tom Scozzafava strongly supports the new 2 percent cap on local property taxes, but...
“The cumulative impact of all taxes has gotten to the point taxpayers can’t afford it anymore,” he said. “At the same time, constituents have to realize that along with a (tax) cap will be a reduction or complete loss of services. You can’t have it both ways.”
Moriah currently has a $2.6 million budget with $1.57 million raised through local raises. That means Moriah can only increase taxes by $31,400 next year to stay within the 2 percent tax cap.
That’s a tough limit for Moriah officials, who note the town faces about $200,000 in flood damage from this past spring.
“We hope to get that money back from FEMA (federal Emergency Management Agency). but you can’t put that into the budget hoping it’ll come,” Scozzafava said.
The supervisor also noted the town will face reduced revenue from the Bulwagga Bay campsite, which was hit hard by flooding. The town will also face increased energy costs, higher employee salaries, increased health insurance premiums and a host of other price hikes.
Those increases will certainly top the $31,400 limit. That means Moriah will have to make cuts in other areas.
“To provide relief to the property tax some of the services that are nice will have to go away,” Scozzafava said. “We will encourage public participation in the budget process. We need to hear from people what they value and what they don’t.”
Moriah spends $30,000 a year to operate the health center in Mineville, Scozzafava noted. Should the health center be closed, he wondered, or do people want cuts elsewhere.
The town could eliminate it’s two-man police force, turn off street lights, cut youth programs and slash senior citizen services, Scozzafava said.
“What should be cut?” the supervisor asked.
“And what about our highway department,” he said. “We have 50 miles of rural highways, some dirt with significant hills. The weather is unpredictable. How do we budget for highway? Already we don’t take care of the roads the way we should.”
The new state tax cap law allows a municipality to exceed the 2 percent increase if four of five town board members approve. Scozzafava plans on preparing two budgets for 2012 — one with a 2 percent or less tax increase and one exceeding the cap. He’ll then leave it up to the town board to pass one of the budget versions.
“This will be my 23rd budget and will by far be my most difficult,” he said.
While the job is difficult, Scozzafava stresses he supports efforts to reduce taxes and balance budgets. He credits Gov. Andrew Cuomo with pushing the tax cap law through the state legislature.
“The governor is doing a great job,” the Republican Scozzafava said of Democrat Cuomo. “He’s trying to dig us out of a hole that took us 30 years to get into.”