UPDATE: Previously, this article said that people might be losing out on the county portion of the “tax freeze” rebate this year. It actually applies to next year.

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The City of Ithaca rebate situation which we previously reported on was accurate – it was based on 2015’s budget. When Mayor Myrick corrected us, he was referring to the 2016 budget.

Here’s a breakdown of what portions of the tax freeze rebates people will receive, according to Jay Franklin, Director of Assessment.

2015: All eligible will receive the Tompkins County portion. City of Ithaca, Caroline and Ulysses residents will not receive their locality’s portion.

2016: Tentatively, no one one outside of certain special districts will see a rebate check. The explanation as to why is in the article.

ITHACA, NY – Last week, we delivered some bad news about some Tompkins residents losing part of their property tax rebate. More bad news: it turns out that everyone in Tompkins might be losing out next year.

Related: Why some Tompkins homeowners will lose out on state rebate

Here’s why: qualifying for the tax freeze rebate program requires school districts and municipalities to come in under the tax cap, and to implement “efficiency plans” to help keep taxes down in the future.

The old jail, where the County Administrator’s office is located.
The old jail, where the County Administrator’s office is located.

According to an October report from Politico New York, Tompkins had already been working on efficiency programs for years. According to County Administrator Joe Mareane, the changes they’ve made save taxpayers $3.4 million annually. One major money saver is a health insurance consortium the county created to provide benefits for county employees.

The problem is, these initiatives were put in motion prior to 2012 – which means they don’t count toward meeting the state’s requirement this year. The county attempted to launch new programs, but the state did not accept the plans.

Worse still, the county filed collectively with all of it’s municipalities, meaning that even if a city, town or village meets the requirements, residents will not receive any rebate, according to Jay Franklin, Director of Assessment.

Meanwhile, the city of Cortland, which signed onto Tompkins County’s health consortium in 2012, was able to count the switch in its efficiency plan to the state, Mareane said.

“I think the major flaw is that those who innovated early were punished by this plan … We would have been rewarded for procrastination,” he said. “I’m planning to call the state and see if we can go through this. I’m not willing to give up the ghost yet,” Mareane told Politico in October.

Apparently the fight is still ongoing – Mareane said today that whether or not people will receive a rebate on the county level is still uncertain. The county is still trying to work with the state and come to an agreement.

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Michael Smith

Michael Smith reports on politics and local news for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached via email at msmith@ithacavoice.com, by cell at (607) 229-0885, or via Google Voice at (518) 650-3639.