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Three dozen on LI override property tax cap

Three dozen Long Island taxing districts and municipalities have chosen to override the property tax cap that passed this year, according to data released by the state comptroller's office Thursday.

Of the nearly 1,600 taxing districts and municipalities that have filed their budgets with the comptroller's office to date, 298 -- nearly one in five -- plan to exceed the cap, which takes effect next year and limits growth of the annual tax levy to the lesser of inflation or 2 percent.

The caps can be overridden by a vote by 60 percent of the governing body of a district or municipality -- with the exception of school districts, which require a voter override.

For example, the Nesconset Fire District raised its tax levy by 4.8 percent because of escalating costs such as pension contributions, workers' compensation and fuel, according to Commissioner Vincent Puleo.

Puleo said contributions to the state pension fund went up 20.7 percent and workers comp rose 13.3 percent. Fuel for emergency vehicles is expected to rise as well.

"In preparing the 2012 budget, there were a few large increases that the fire district had very little or no control over," Puleo said. "We just couldn't stay under the 2 percent cap this year."

The Manhasset-Lakeville Fire and Water districts exceeded their caps because they needed to make up for years of deferred contributions to the retirement plan, and to pay for a new dispatch center and to pay down debt for water system improvements, District Commissioner Andrew DeMartin said.

Northport village submitted a $10.5 million proposed tax levy -- an increase of 6.6 percent -- as a placeholder, said deputy mayor Henry Tobin. The village is still preparing its budget and plans a public hearing Tuesday on whether to exceed its cap, which with exclusions and other factors is 3.67 percent.

"There's a chance we're going to be over the tax cap, and we didn't want to mislead people into thinking we weren't," Tobin said. "We're still budgeting and hopefully we'll come out below, but that's what we turned in."

The deadline for cities, villages and counties to file their tax cap reports is at the end of the month.

Peter Baynes, executive director of the New York State Conference of Mayors and Municipal Officials, an organization representing cities and villages, said the newness of the cap has put additional pressure on local governments as they struggle with fiscal challenges.

"They're doing anything they can to stay under the cap," Baynes said.

With Jennifer Barrios,

Carl MacGowan and Emily Ngo.

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