The Village of East Rockaway unanimously approved a law overriding the two percent New York State after a public hearing on Monday night at Village Hall.
The limit, established last year for 2012 budget sessions, prevents the tax levy (money raised by tax payer contributions) from being raised by more than two percent.
However, the law, as written, is vague and does not specifically indicate what the cap applies to, leaving villages such as East Rockaway “stuck” determining what state mandates they are required to fulfill, the board said.
By overriding the law, East Rockaway is allowed to increase the tax levy by more than two percent without having to suffer potential financial penalties, according to East Rockaway Mayor Francis T. Lenahan Jr.
The board stressed that the override does not indicate a desire or intent to increase the tax levy by more than two percent, but instead allows for the opportunity to do so in case of emergency. If the limit was kept in place, penalties could be handed down in cases of unanticipated money usage (such as a large snow storm or other natural disaster) or a simple clerical error, according to Lenahan.
Any monies that exceed the cap would be required to be addressed in the following year’s budget if the override attempt failed. This would adversely affect the village’s future tax rate, according to the Mayor.
“After attending numerous seminars and following the advice of the Nassau County Village Officials Association and the New York Conference of Mayors, it is imperative that we take this step to protect our village,” Lenahan said. “There are questions that are unanswered by the state related to the calculations that determine if a municipality will exceed the tax levy or not.”
Lenahan stressed that the cap, and the resulting override, should not be confused with the tax rate.
“Your tax rate is determined by a number of factors,” Lenahan said. “They include the total assessed valuation of the village, the total revenue that we raise, the total expenditures needed to operate, and the total tax levy. This village board is doing everything possible not to exceed that tax cap, nor do we have any intentions to doing so.”
The village trustees agreed with Lenahan.
“We cannot tie our hands, in case there’s an emergency,” Trustee Richard Gogarty said. “It’s our responsibility to handle anything that happens with this village. It’s just like an insurance policy.”