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NYS Comptroller

THOMAS P. DiNAPOLI

Press Releases

June 30, 2015, Contact: Press Office (518) 474-4015

DiNapoli: Fewer Counties Exceeding Tax Cap

The number of counties overriding New York’s property tax cap has declined by more than half over the past four fiscal years, dropping from 15 in 2012 to only six in 2015, according to a report issued today by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. The report also noted that the counties’ average tax levy increase has remained at or below 2 percent in each of the past four years.

“Counties are holding the line on property taxes,” said DiNapoli. “If inflation continues its downward trend, however, counties will need to tighten their budgets even more to stay within the tax cap and deliver services that homeowners expect. I believe the financial decisions for county leaders next year will be especially difficult.”

The tax cap, which first applied to local governments beginning in 2012, limits tax levy increases to the lesser of the rate of inflation or 2 percent with some exceptions, including a provision that allows municipalities to override the cap.

DiNapoli’s report revealed the property tax levy collected by the 57 counties outside of New York City increased from $5.13 billion in 2012 to $5.4 billion in 2015, an increase of 5.3 percent. The total property tax levied by these counties over the four-year period was $21 billion, which is $357 million under the tax levy limit.

Though there is wide variation from one community to the next, on average, property taxes are the second leading source of revenue for counties at 24 percent, DiNapoli found. Additional sources include sales and use taxes (33 percent), state and federal aid (23 percent) and other local revenues such as charges for services (20 percent).

In 2012, a total of 15 counties exceeded the tax levy limit. That number has declined each year since – 14 counties in 2013, 13 counties in 2014 and six counties in 2015. During this time frame, 27 counties (47 percent) have exceeded the tax cap at least one time. Delaware County exceeded the cap in each of the four years and five counties (Essex, Madison, Rockland, Sullivan and Wyoming) exceeded the cap in three out of the four years.

The report also studied the correlation of tax levy overrides to counties considered in fiscal stress based on the Comptroller’s Fiscal Stress Monitoring System. Using scores issued in September of 2014, the report shows fiscally stressed counties were nearly twice as likely to exceed the tax cap compared to those counties which were not placed in one of the three stress categories.

Additional findings include:

  • Counties in the Capital Region showed the largest average annual levy growth from 2012 to 2015, at 3.2 percent;
  • A total of 23 counties had actual decreases in their tax levy from 2012 to 2015. Of these, seven counties (Cortland, Fulton, Montgomery, Onondaga, Otsego, Ulster and Wayne) had declines in their levy for two of the four years and two counties (Clinton and Westchester) had declines in their levy for three of the four years;
  • From 2014 to 2015, the average levy increase allowed by the cap for counties ranged from a low of 1.4 percent for Green County to a high of 23.2 percent for Oswego County; and
  • Last year, there were 43 counties for which the allowable increase was greater than 2 percent.

To read the report, visit: http://www.osc.state.ny.us/localgov/pubs/research/snapshot/countytaxcap0615.pdf

To download a county-by-county breakdown of tax levy data, visit:
http://www.osc.state.ny.us/localgov/pubs/research/snapshot/taxcapbycounty043015.xls

For access to state and local government spending and for information on 50,000 state contracts, visit Open Book New York. The easy-to-use website was created by DiNapoli to promote openness in government and provide taxpayers with better access to the financial workings of government.

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