As summer transitions into fall in New York state, the leaves change, the temperatures drop and local municipalities work on their 2013 budgets.
Many taxpayers, at least in our region, are reading in the newspaper about possible increases in next year's tax bills.
In 2011, state lawmakers adopted what many refer to as a 2 percent cap on the amount of tax-levy increases.
The tax cap isn't necessarily 2 percent in all cases. It's actually based on a formula, but the cap in each locality and school district is around 2 percent.
The tax cap also comes with a loophole. Local lawmakers have the option of overriding the cap with a vote among members of a town, village or city council. School districts also can override the cap, but only if the public approves the override in a vote.
While some municipalities such as Gloversville and Caroga Lake are looking at either decreasing their tax rates or holding them steady, others - including Fulton County - are considering overriding their tax cap.
An override in Fulton County would be the second in two years. County supervisors are reviewing a roughly $88 million proposed budget for 2013 with a $31.8 million tax levy, up $4 million from the current year. Just under half of that levy goes to state-mandated Medicaid costs. Though budget spending is expected to be down 4 percent, revenues also are expected to decline by 11 percent.
Fulton County already has passed a resolution allowing the board to override the tax cap.
In 2011, the county increased the average tax rate by 10.3 percent. The county then raised the tax rate 5.5 percent for this year.
Montgomery County's preliminary $92 million budget for 2013 includes a 3 percent average tax increase and no layoffs. At this point, the budget proposal is below the tax cap.
Montgomery County's budget proposal includes significant and difficult cuts. For example, the plan includes no funding for the Office for Aging and Cornell Cooperative Extension, saving $400,000. It lowers the Soil and Water Conservation District's funding by $37,000. The preliminary budget is $153,000 higher than the 2012 budget.
Local municipalities face many expenses mandated by the state and have limited options. Local taxpayers, however, are stretched to the limit. Localities should abide by the tax cap.