By Teri Weaver on March 18, 2014 at 1:20 PM, updated March 18, 2014 at 1:28 PM
SYRACUSE, N.Y. - Despite growing criticism of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's property tax freeze, Sen. John DeFrancisco said today he thought some version of state-supported property tax relief would be in New York's 2014-15 budget.
"I think it will be there in some form," DeFrancisco, R-Syracuse, said as budget talks begin in earnest in Albany this week.
The key to winning support in the Senate, according to DeFrancisco, is easing up on state-mandated programs and costs to local governments while at the same time acknowledging that some communities have taken steps to curb costs and consolidate services.
"It's got to be tied together with real mandate relief," said DeFrancisco, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee. "And I think that's the key that would make it pass."
Gov. Andrew Cuomo went to Utica today to renew his pitch for his plan, the second time in two days Cuomo has recruited local leaders to help him sell his version of the tax relief.
Cuomo's property tax freeze would use state money to pay slight increases on homeowners' property tax bills - but only if local governments also took concrete steps toward cutting costs by consolidating services.
In Central New York, about 207,000 homeowners would qualify for Cuomo's freeze plan, according to his office. The average benefit for homeowners in Cayuga, Cortland, Madison, Onondaga and Oswego counties would be $214 per household, according to the state's Division of the Budget.
If passed as Cuomo proposed, the first round of property tax relief checks would be mailed this fall, a season when both Cuomo and state lawmakers face re-election. When fully implemented, Cuomo's freeze would cost the state $1.9 billion.
But it's the call for consolidation, rather than the promise of tax relief, that has some local leaders concerned. Some say they already have taken steps to scale back or share services. Others say Cuomo's plan to stick within a cap on the total property tax levy while continuing to cut costs puts essential services on the chopping block. Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner is among more than 100 local leaders who signed a letter opposing Cuomo's freeze plan.
Today, Cuomo issued an updated list of supporters of his version of the freeze. The list includes Canastota Mayor Carla DeShaw; Pulaski Mayor Karl Hax; Onondaga County Legislature Chairman Ryan McMahon; Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente; Syracuse Common Council President Van Robinson and Oneida Mayor Max Smith.
Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney, a Republican and frequent champion of the Democratic governor, already endorsed the idea.
The only big city mayor to sign on publicly is Mayor Mike Spano of Yonkers.
Last week, the Senate leadership released its version of property tax relief called "property tax freeze plus."
In that plan, the state would ease up on consolidation requirements for local governments that already have consolidated some services.
"There will be property tax relief," said Sen. David Valesky, D-Oneida, who is part of a faction of Democrats co-running the Senate with Republicans. "We'll know in two weeks what the final outcome is."
The state's new fiscal year starts April 1.