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Amityville board urges state lawmakers to permanently extend property tax cap

The Amityville Village Hall on Ireland Place in

The Amityville Village Hall on Ireland Place in Amityville Village on Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014. Photo Credit: Steve Pfost

The Amityville Village Board this week urged state lawmakers to permanently extend Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's property tax cap before the end of their session later this month.

The resolution, which is largely symbolic, blames high property taxes for pushing seniors, young professionals and businesses off Long Island and calls them "a major inhibitor to the growth of home values" in the region.

Amityville's support comes as some other municipal officials have signaled their opposition. The New York Conference of Mayors and Municipal Officers released a letter Monday asking that the tax cap law be extended only on a temporary basis and for changes it said would ease the law's burden on local governments. The Suffolk County Village Officials Association opposes significant portions of the law and is working with lawmakers to make changes. Babylon Village Mayor Ralph Scordino, the association's president, says the cap makes it virtually impossible to obey state mandates while providing municipal services that residents demand.

Under Amityville Mayor James Wandell, property taxes in the village this year were $34.55 per $100 of assessed value, or $4,198 on a home worth $375,000. State officials have described village finances as shaky, though there are signs of improvement including budget surpluses.

Trustees Wandell, Jessica Bernius and Nick LaLota rarely miss a chance to decry the tax increases of the prior administration, and the resolution passed Monday night notes that taxes rose an average 8 percent annually over the last decade before the Wandell administration brought in three straight budgets under the cap on tax levy increases; this year's was 1.68 percent.

"I will have my feet held to the fire," Wandell said, praising a law he said forced him to aggressively seek nontax revenue and economies of scale.

The 3-2 vote came with Dennis Siry and Kevin Smith opposing. "I see a fiscal disaster coming down the road with this kind of legislation," Smith said, citing expenses such as employee pensions and health care costs largely outside of the village's control.

Scordino, in an interview Thursday, cited similar concerns and said he and other mayors were pushing for changes to the tax-cap law.

"We are working very hard with our local representatives to come up with some ideas to help us," he said.


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