Back in the 2011 NYS legislative session, there was a law passed dealing with municipal and school district taxes. This limit had been a huge talking point in the 2010 gubernatorial election. The biggest problem is the way it has been presented to the public. The legislators who wrote and passed the law and the media both call it a tax cap. That is a fallacy.
First, the law effects the tax levy, not individual tax bills, directly. Tax levies are limited by the law but that does not mean that an individual property tax bill will have the same limit as the levy does. Tax bills involve equalization rates and for years have not been the same as the levy increase. People need to realize that if a municipality or a school district has a 0.8% tax levy increase, that does not mean the individual tax bill on a given piece of property will only go up 0.8%.
Second, the law is not a straight levy limit. There is a complicated formula that must be dealt with to obtain the amount of increase available to a specific municipality or a specific school district. There are some exemptions but these are few. There is also the opportunity, after the first year, for carryover.
Third, the idea that this levy limit is a set limit of two per cent is not totally true either. This limit is what must be met if the vote to approve is a simple majority. A school district can increase the tax levy by more than that specific district’s calculated limit if the voters in that district approve the increase by 60% of the voters or more.
All voters and the media need to realize that the “tax cap” that has been in the news is not an actual cap. Chapter 97 of the Laws of 2011 sets a tax levy limit. The limit is calculated individually for each school district and each taxing municipality within the state. This limit will be different for each taxing entity and will vary each year.