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Peekskill Daily Voice serves Peekskill, NY


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Peekskill Needs Mandate Relief With Cap, Finn says

The New York State Legislature will end its session for the summer on Monday, and among the last laws expected to reach the floor prior to the close of the session will be the governor's proposed two percent property tax cap. While the proposed two percent property tax cap will help residents, the state needs to cut unfunded mandates if Peekskill is to benefit, said city manager Rick Finn. “We know from our carrier that our health insurance is projected to go up again by another 12 or 13 percent,” said Finn. “Which, to the city, is an increase of literally hundreds of thousands of dollars to provide health insurance to our employees and their families.” State pension costs also continue to rise substantially, Finn said. Insurance and pension alone will cost the city more than the approximately $300,000 the two percent cap would allow the city to raise in taxes next year. "The [state] mayor’s association put some numbers together that showed that with a property tax cap of two percent, within the first couple of years we’ll start falling further and further behind, ” Finn said. Over a period of time Peekskill, as well as other cities, will begin to reduce its workforce, which could will likely lead to cutting services, Finn said. The proposed law would cap property taxes, preventing them from increasing by more than a few percentage points, with the goal of relieving the tax burden on Westchester homeowners, who pay among the highest property taxes in the country. Local property taxpayers have carried an increasing share of the burden to fund school district budgets, as the state has cut its state aid contribution nearly every year At the same time, school district must follow expensive state mandates for items such as special education, teacher pensions and other benefits where costs continue to rise. According to Assemblywoman Sandra Galef (D-Ossining) who represents the 90th Assembly district, which includes Peekskill, Cortlandt and Ossining among other communities, the cap being considered would be anywhere from 2 percent to 5 percent, but it is likely to be closer to the lower number. Despite the outcry against the measure by some area school administrators and public officials, Galef said she expects the measure to be adopted by both the Assembly and the Senate. Gov. Cuomo supports the tax cap. Further, Galef said she will vote in favor of the new law. “How can we continue to be the county with the highest property taxes in the state?” Galef asked, noting that she has heard from constituents who are in favor of the tax cap. Galef said that she will support the measure largely because the law will have a “sunset clause” or time limit. “The law will be in place for a limited period and we will evaluate whether it is working or not before it is renewed.” she said. Finn said that the governor has said he plans to address unfunded mandates after passing the tax cap and has proposed creating another less expensive pension tier, but that would do little to help municipalities in the immediate future. ”Unfortunately, we’re not hiring anybody, nor are other municipalities," Finn said. "We’re going with less and less employees. The help that will give will be ten or twenty years from now but it won’t help us now."

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