Tax cap: Apply to special districts

When it comes to the tax cap, schools and municipalities work hard to ensure they don’t raise their budgets more than 2 percent (or what ever the rate is set that year). That’s because once they do, extra requirements are put in place to authorize their passage.

But when it comes to special districts, it seems local officials throw up their hands and say the rates are what they are, and if it means a significant raise, so be it.

That was the case in Fredonia this year with water rates. Mayor Athanasia Landis proposed an increase of about 30 percent to cover the expense of the necessary improvements and upgrades to the spillway and dam.

In Gowanda, outgoing Mayor Heather McKeever proposed major increases for the sewer rates, in part because of a capital project for an ultra violet system and improved structure overall. The current sewer rate is $12 for the first 6,656 gallons and $1.80 for every thousand gallons after that. The new rates, which are scheduled to start in July, will be $20 for the first 4,000 gallons and $3.50 for every thousand gallons after that. Janet Vogtli, the owner of the Gowanda Village Laundromat, said she backs the increase even though it will cost her probably $1,000 a year more.

The tax cap doesn’t stop municipalities from increasing rates significantly. Both Forestville and Cherry Creek raised their rates well above the tax cap (notice how they both were dissolved shortly afterward) but it does discourage it by adding additional requirements.

The same should be said for all special districts, whether it’s water, sewer, fire protection or more. The state shouldn’t outright stop special districts from going over the 2 percent tax cap, but it should make it more difficult.