As Gov. Andrew Cuomo affixed his name to the new property tax cap law during a ceremonial signing in Irondequoit in July, he assured New Yorkers: “Today, the madness ends.”
Well, not quite. The new law, which holds annual property tax increases to 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower, is the biggest step toward reducing New Yorkers’ huge tax burden in decades.
But just as it is in rolling out most, if not all, legislation that’s comprehensive, there are kinks. Municipal leaders such as Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks as well as town and village leaders statewide are getting antsy. They argue that they can’t move forward with budget planning until the state provides vital details for implementing the new law. So far, at least five counties have talked about overriding the cap, which requires a vote of 60 percent of a local legislature or board.
Amid this kind of restlessness, the Cuomo administration insists there are no problems. A spokesman, Josh Vlasto, when contacted Monday, noted that the state comptroller had already issued guidelines. “The cap is very straightforward and their concerns are not valid,” he said. That sounds too heavy-handed. The governor’s office must try harder to help municipalities as much as possible to adapt to the new law.
And municipalities, of course, must help themselves. Those with police and fire departments, for instance, will see their pension costs jump 19 percent. Obviously, they must begin to find new ways to deliver these services at a reduced cost. Real leadership by municipal leaders such as Brooks demands that those discussions begin soon. Otherwise, the madness is only beginning.