Advocacy Efforts Score Big Wins during 2015 Legislative Session

Association of Towns’ Advocacy Efforts Score Big Wins during 2015 Legislative Session

The conclusion of the 2015 legislative session brought about some huge triumphs for local governments.  The Association of Towns worked hard to serve as a voice for local governments, advocating for meaningful mandate relief and amendments to the real property tax cap. 

Maintenance of Temporary Real Property Tax Cap

The Association of Towns has lobbied continuously on behalf of local governments to reform the real property tax cap prior to and since its enactment. The real property tax cap, enacted in 2011, was set to sunset in 2016. However, it was up for renewal this year due to the cap’s linkage to rent control laws.  State legislators sought to eliminate the expiration of the real property tax cap, thereby making it permanent.  The Association adamantly opposed the efforts to make the tax cap permanent and ultimately prevailed as the tax cap was temporarily extended for another four years, now set to sunset in 2020.

Real Property Tax Cap Treatment of PILOTs

Additionally, the Association has staunchly advocated for an amendment to the tax cap formula to address disincentives to offer Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) agreements. Previously, the quantity change factor that was utilized in calculating a local government’s 2 percent tax cap included the full value of taxable real property derived from new growth or major additions to existing properties.  Municipalities were not permitted to include the assessed value of real property improvements associated with PILOT agreements in the calculation of the cap’s tax base growth factor, which consequentially resulted in an unfair penalization for local governments with PILOT properties, as the increase in PILOT payments decreased the overall tax levy cap. The 2015 legislative session brought about relief in this regard; specifically, the commissioner of the Department of Taxation and Finance now has the ability to adjust the calculation of the quantity change factor based on the development of tax-exempted land.

Waiver of Asbestos Notification Fees

Labor Law § 904 requires a local government to provide notice to the Department of Labor Asbestos Control Bureau when it undertakes demolition activity, which could cost upward of $4,000.  For years, the Association of Towns has advocated on behalf of local governments by imploring the state to waive this fee; the 2015-2016 Executive Budget granted this relief by waiving the project fee if the municipality certifies that the cost of remediation exceeds the resulting value of the property.  Additionally, a local government will not have to pay any project fees if the project is undertaken pursuant to an urban renewal plan, a municipal redevelopment plan or by or on behalf of a land bank.

Reduction in Special Election Costs

The Association was instrumental in achieving mandate relief to towns that conduct special elections.  Specifically, the Association worked with the legislative sponsors to draft legislation, which passed both houses and removes the redundant requirement that each polling site in a special election that offers personal registration have its own board of registration. This legislation provides towns with the option to designate one or more boards of registration regardless of the number of polling sites designating, which has the potential to save towns tens of thousands of dollars. This legislation is a great example of meaningful mandate relief that the Association worked hard to achieve with its partners in the Legislature.