Schenectady County

Legislators: Schenectady school tax idea will not pass

A lack of details is sinking the city’s chances of getting anything out of the state Legislature thi

A lack of details is sinking the city’s chances of getting anything out of the state Legislature this year, Sen. Hugh Farley and Assemblyman James Tedisco said.

The city’s request for permission to tax landlords at a higher rate than owner-occupant houses won’t fly because the City Council doesn’t know how much more it would charge landlords, said Farley, R-Niskayuna.

“We needed more specifics,” he said. “How much are they going to raise it?”

Tedisco, R-Glenville, added, “We can’t put in a piece of legislation that is open-ended. They could do 150 percent more!”

Even with details about the proposed landlord tax rate, Farley said he might not support the bill.

Landlords — and some owner-occupants — have already lobbied him to oppose it, he said. What has resonated with him is the message that the tax shift would hurt renters.

“Is this a tax on landlords or on low-income renters?” Farley said. “I’m telling you, the housing committee would be very concerned for the poor.”

But Tedisco said they would carry the bill if it includes details on how much the city would tax landlords.

“If they give us specifics and they want this, we can try,” Tedisco said. “We are not opposed to trying.”

But the state legislators said Mayor Brian U. Stratton’s top request has no chance of passing, no matter how many details he includes. In that request, he wanted the city to stop paying the school taxes that city property owners don’t pay. The city school district would have to eat that loss or find ways to collect the delinquent taxes.

The plan would save the city about $3.25 million, but only by passing that expense to the school district, which is supported by the same group of taxpayers.

Farley said that idea was dead on arrival.

“The chances of that getting out of committee are slim to none. I’d say more none than slim,” Farley said. “This is a very controversial request.”

Tedisco added that the city would have to partner with dozens of other municipalities to get support for the request.

“They’ll rarely pass piecemeal pieces of legislation for one community,” he said, “because then another community and another will come in and want a bill. Historically, they do not do piecemeal bills.”

Stratton wants to try anyway.

“We’re going to go forward, at least, and see how far it can go,” he said. “We’ll see what they can do to help us.”

But he told the City Council not to be optimistic.

“I don’t think it’s happening,” he said.

The state legislators said they could try to pass one of the City Council’s requests, which involves creating incentives for those who convert houses from two units to one.

But again, they said, the bare-bones request lacks all necessary details.

“What kind of incentives would they want us to give them?” Farley said. “We need some details. What about historic homes — are they going to be exempted?”

Tedisco urged the City Council to try again with more detailed requests.

“I’ll give them a little credit for thinking outside the box,” he said. “We understand — we’re in a financial tsunami here at the state, too. But you have to have details if you’re going outside the box.”

The City Council sent off the requests as the first salvo in an effort to cut $13 million from the 2010 and 2011 budgets. If the council and mayor cannot cut that much through reduced spending or increased revenue, they will have to resort to layoffs or a large property tax increase.

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