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Governor's tax freeze plan comes under scrutiny

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Rochester: Governor's tax freeze plan comes under scrutiny
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ERIE COUNTY, N.Y. — Counties across New York State pay among the highest property taxes in the country.

"The tax that is the main burden in this state is not the income tax. It is the property tax," said Gov. Cuomo, D-New York.

Tuesday, Cuomo pitched his plan to give taxpayers some relief.

"Why is the property tax so high? Because we have too many levels of government, period."

Cuomo wants to offer homeowners a five-year property tax freeze. In return, local governments would stay within the state's tax cap and provide a plan to find savings of one percent of its tax levy in years three, four and five.

"We need to do what's in the best interest of the people all across Western New York and reducing the property tax burden that has been created over many, many years because of many bad decisions should be a priority," said state Sen. Tim Kennedy, D-Buffalo.

The Town of Grand Island has been turning over some of its services to Erie County for several years, now.

"I have no problem at all working with the county – I'm just not sure we're going to find the savings that people think we might," said Town Supervisor Mary Cooke, R-Grand Island.

Cooke is concerned about the details of Cuomo's plan and how savings will ultimately be calculated.

"We have some limitations already because of the island. We can't consolidate sewer or water because we have our own plants that we have to run," Cooke said.

Meanwhile, some advocates for downsizing and consolidation, while applauding the governor for his effort, believe the plan is flawed as well.

"There's really no incentive that's going to get politicians to behave properly. I think we either have to continue our efforts to let people decide the size and cost of their government or at some point the state is going to just have to say enough is enough," said consolidation advocate Kevin Gaughan.

Cuomo believes the county, with incentive, will be able to sit down with local municipalities and figure out how to get the job done.

"It can't be that everyone has to do everything in every government. It can't be," Cuomo said.

More details will likely emerge as the legislature addresses the issue in the budget.

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