Taking a page from last week's task force report on property tax relief from the New York State Conference of Mayors and Municipal Officials, the East Hampton village board of trustees unanimously passed a resolution asking the State Legislature to free them from state mandates covering pension benefits, health insurance costs and the requirement to follow collective bargaining rules.
While the resolution was nonbinding, Village Administrator Larry Cantwell said it is important to realize how much the state forces municipalities to spend before it tries to impose a 2 percent cap on property taxes.
The resolution says a tax cap will only work if it is accompanied by a repeal of state mandates that require local governments to increase spending and property taxes.
Cantwell said he realized just how big that impact is when he opened bids for a village project this week and saw the difference between a bid using a state-mandated labor scale and those that used local labor rates.
"We just opened a bid to re-shingle two garages," Cantwell said. "One used the state-mandated labor scale. It was around $40,000. The other four used local labor rates, and they were all around $20,000."
Because the village is required to use prevailing union labor rates, the job is being rebid, to make clear to all bidders what they must pay workers.
Earlier last week, the Conference of Mayors issued a 20-page report titled "You Can't Cap What You Can't Control" that details state mandates and their impact on property taxes.
The report calls for the legislature to radically change the way towns do business and urges that some expenses be excluded from any property tax cap if they cannot be controlled.
The report calls for a temporary freeze on public sector wages; changing procedures so police and firefighters hurt while doing nonhazardous duty would get only workers' compensation, not a disability claim; and reforming the prevailing wage law.