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New York's property-tax cap for 2014 drops to 1.66%

ALBANY -- New York's property-tax cap just got tighter.

Counties, towns and most cities across the state will face a 1.66 percent cap on increasing tax levies for the 2014 fiscal year, instead of 2 percent, according to new guidelines released by the state comptroller's office.

Though the state property-tax cap law limits increases to 2 percent, the cap adjusts annually with the consumer price index. Because the rate is running below 2 percent, so will the tax cap.

The new figures affect all municipalities whose fiscal year begins Jan. 1. This covers all county and town governments across New York, most cities (including Glen Cove and Long Beach) and a few villages (including Islandia).

"That's probably the equivalent of $20 million to $25 million in lost revenue for the counties," said Stephen Acquario, executive director of the New York State Association of Counties. "That's going to put a lot of pressure; it puts a squeeze on local governments."

Acquario said most counties are in "budget-making season" currently and are facing two choices. "We either raise taxes or cut services," he said, adding that many county governments are considering selling assets or reducing the workforce.

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano won't propose raising taxes, a spokeswoman said. "County Executive Mangano has not raised taxes in three consecutive years and will soon produce his fourth consecutive no tax increase budget, which is well under the tax cap," Katie Grilli-Robles said in an email.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone recently proposed merging some county offices and executing a sale-leaseback of county buildings to cut expenses. "County Executive Bellone believes we cannot solve Suffolk County's fiscal issues by exceeding the property tax cap, instead we must continue to make the hard choices to consolidate government and improve efficiency," Deputy County Executive Jon Schneider said in an email.

The property-tax cap allows exemptions for some factors, including pension growth, which means that some municipalities might be able to go beyond the 1.66 percent threshold. But Acquario said the exemption won't boost spending much.

Municipalities can override the cap with a 60 percent supermajority vote.

The cap for school districts likely will be set in January; schools generally follow a July 1 to June 30 fiscal year. New York State United Teachers, the state's largest teachers union, has filed a suit to overturn the cap.

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