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County Property Taxes "Consumed" by Medicaid

By Eileen Buckley

Buffalo, NY – Thousands of Erie County property owners will be receiving their tax bills in the mail this week. But the bill has a new look.

Deputy County Executive Carl Calabrese says the county tax bill has been redesigned to include an explanation of state mandated programs such as Medicaid. Calabrese says for the first time state mandated costs for Medicaid will "consume" every signal dollar of property tax revenues paid by county taxpayers.

"We collect slightly over $129 million in property tax," Calabrese explained. "The Medicaid bill for 2003 will be $129 dollars.

"Before any person in a nursing home is taken care of, before any pothole is fixed, before any park shelter is repaired, every dime that people pay in property tax is now going for state mandated programs. We are going to be highlighting that on the bill."

Calabrese says the county wants to show that many programs approved in Albany have been passed on to local property taxpayers. He says the Medicaid program "is out of control."

"What is really scary is when you look at the growth of Medicaid, it has been going up by 12 and 13 percent per year," Calabrese said. "So for the next couple of years, we are looking at another 25-percent increase in Medicaid.

"If our property tax levy goes up three-percent that's a lot. It is a very serious situation. It is the reason why over 50 counties in New York State had to raise property taxes, on average 22- percent, for 2003."

County Executive Joel Giambra is proposing a state-wide increase of one-percentage point in the state sales tax to pay for the Medicaid. But another recommendation by Assembly Majority Leader Paul Tokasz suggests that counties give up one percent of their existing sales tax as part of a total state take over of Medicaid costs. That idea received full support last month from the Erie County Legislature.