SCHENECTADY, N.Y.---Schenectady County legislators say they were in support of the two percent property tax cap, but expected it to come with mandate relief from the state.
The Schenectady County Legislature moved one step closer to considering raising taxes Thursday night, something County Manager Kathleen Rooney says has not been done since 2009.
They are asking for a public hearing so they can have some flexibility with the budget numbers, but raising taxes is not a done deal.
"When you compare our county to other counties who are all in the same boat, all delivering the same services, all dealing with those same stressors, you'll see they have raised taxes over time," says Rooney. "We've really been trying to protect the taxpayer."
Rooney says the public hearing will only allow her more flexibility when it comes time to crunch budget numbers.
"Each year it gets more and more difficult, so we're always getting closer and closer to the edge."
While everyone is in agreement that input from the public is necessary, minority leader Jim Buhrmaster says he doesn't think going above the tax cap is the answer.
"Right now people don't have an increase in their income, everybody is strapped," says Buhrmaster. "I still think there are things we can do here at the county. So I think it's wrong to even consider raising the tax cap. This economy is terrible, and for us to be talking about going over the tax cap, when we've had flat budgets for the past three or four years, the public needs to know exactly why."
But majority leader Gary Hughes says the mandated costs in the county, including medicaid and public assistance are increasing, and flexibility within the budget is needed.
"Raise property taxes are three words no elected official ever wants to say," says Hughes. "But cutting services has an implication for our constituents as well. We have to make some hard choices, we have to choose between how much we can tax, and how much we can cut spending."
The legislature is welcoming public input next Friday at the county legislature building at 6:00 p.m.