Posted at: 12/10/2012 5:41 PM
Updated at: 12/10/2012 5:53 PM
By: Ray Levato
Winter isn't anywhere to be seen around here, but county democrats went on the offensive again Monday over what they called the “snow tax”.
Democrats in the county legislature say charging homeowners a fee for plowing county roads is a tax and town taxpayers foot the bill to the tune of $5 million a year.
The $5.3 million is charged back to the county residents in Maggie Brooks' 2013 budget. It shows up on homeowners' county property tax bill. Democrats say if it shows up on your tax bill, then it is a tax. And they say that makes the “true” property tax “rate” much higher than what republicans have been touting.
Monroe County pays the towns to plow county roads in those towns. Up to now that cost came out of the county property tax. But in her 2013 budget, Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks treats that cost as a charge back just like the $18-million county contribution to Monroe Community College. County legislator Paul Haney says this practice misleads the public.
Paul Haney, (D) County Legislator, said, “Because it's being dishonest with the taxpayers. The county administration tries its hardest to convince the taxpayers that they've maintained a flat tax rate, and they haven't maintained a flat tax rate.”
The Monroe County Property Tax rate is $8.99/per thousand of assessed value. Democrats say the charge back for plowing county roads in the towns, what they call the “snow tax”, would add $0.16 cents to that to $9.15. Add in all the charge backs on the county property tax bill and the true tax rate they say would be over $10 a thousand.
Haney is a former City Council finance committee expert and says Republicans' fixation on the $8.99 flat tax rate is a fiction.
Haney said, “They've divided the tax rate into two numbers. And one number they keep flat and talk about it all the time. And the other number just keeps going up. So the $8.99 is a figment of the imagination.”
But Brooks says the Democrats' argument is politically expedient, but not true.
Maggie Brooks, Monroe County executive, said, “Every year they come up with something to complain about. And every year they try to manipulate the numbers to say the tax rate has changed.”
County Executive Brooks defends the Republicans' practice of keeping the $8.99 per thousand flat from year to year.
Brooks said, “Our budget keeps the tax rate flat, preserves services, is in compliance with the taxpayer protection act locally which controls our spending. If they don't like this budget, I would be more than happy to hear their ideas. We've actually asked them to participate every year in the budget process, and they have refused.”
Minority leader Carrie Andrews said there are places to find savings in the county budget. She said one place to start is the $26-million in rent owed for Frontier Field. County Executive Brooks says if democrats don't like this budget, she would be more than happy to hear their ideas.