by Jeremy Moule
UPDATE, Wednesday, November 28, 1:45 p.m.
From county spokesperson Justin Feasel:
“The 2013 Budget holds the property tax rate stable for a 9th consecutive year and protects vital funding for snow and ice removal. Instead of addressing the root cause, unfunded State mandates, Legislature Democrats are attacking the County’s solution to best serve the traveling public while simultaneously protecting local taxpayers. Their partisan attacks ring especially hollow considering this is a group that votes against flat property taxes each and every year.”
Democrats in the Monroe County Legislature are criticizing a new "snow tax" that they say was hidden in County Executive Maggie Brooks' 2013 budget proposal.
At issue is funding for plowing county roads. By law, the county is responsible for snow and ice removal on its roads, though it contracts out to towns to do the job. This year, the county is budgeting approximately $5.3 million for snow and ice control, about $27,000 more than it budgeted in 2012.
But cost isn't the issue: it's how the county plans to pay for it. In previous years, the money came from the property tax levy, just as funding for many county services and programs does. This year, the county is implementing a chargeback — essentially a fee based on a service provided to some communities — to cover the cost of the contracts. Property owners in the towns will pay $15 per $100,000 assessed value to cover the cost of plowing county roads in their towns. The move will not affect city property owners, since the city plows its own streets. (It should be noted that the county is still negotiating contracts with the towns.)
During a press conference this morning, Democratic Legislator Josh Bauroth said the chargeback, combined with others the county has implemented over the years, will results in higher tax bills for suburban residents.
An administration representative said officials will send out a written response to Democrats' criticisms.