About four years ago, New York State put a cap on the amount local taxes could be raised. It was an attempt to slow down runaway increases. In the State guidelines, the following section sums up the law: “The tax cap law establishes a limit on the annual growth of property taxes levied by local governments and school districts to two percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is less.”
The law applies to all local governments including towns. Unfortunately, the State built in an escape clause for politicians with an override mechanism. “The tax levy cannot exceed the cap unless 60% of the total voting power of the governing body (for local governments) approve such increase.”
On September 14, at the Ramapo Town Board meeting, the board listened to the objections of a number of residents, and then voted to give themselves the right to raise taxes by more than the cap allows. The voting was not 60% of those voting, it was 100%. Yitzchok Ullman made a motion to vote on a law “Allowing the Town of Ramapo to Override the Levy Limit Established in General Municipal Law 3-C.” Council member Brendel Logan-Charles seconded the motion, and then those two plus Patrick Withers and Christopher St. Lawrence all voted yes to exceed the tax cap. Samuel Tress did not vote because he was recently found guilty on charges and has left the scene–perhaps to go home to Lakewood, N.J.
These are the votes that are important for taxpayers to remember. When St. Lawrence is convicted in January on federal charges and SEC charges, and he finally is dragged out of his chair at Town Hall, Ullman, Logan-Charles, and Withers will be left to try and repair the corruption-marred political environment they helped create over the years with key votes such as this one. Barring any further indictments, it will be up to the voters to disinfect the environment lingering around the board table with future elections.