Opinion 91-41


This opinion represents the views of the Office of the State Comptroller at the time it was rendered. The opinion may no longer represent those views if, among other things, there have been subsequent court cases or statutory amendments that bear on the issues discussed in the opinion.


REFERENDUM -- Tax Limitation (authority by petition to compel referendum)

TOWN LAW, §81: Town electors may not, by petition, compel the town board to hold a referendum on a proposition to impose a limit on the amount by which real property taxes may be annually increased.

You ask whether, pursuant to Town Law, §81, town electors may, by petition, compel the town board to hold a referendum on a proposition to impose a limit on the amount by which real property taxes may be increased from year to year.

It is well established that a municipality may not submit a proposition to referendum unless expressly authorized or required by State statute (see, e.g., McCabe v Voohris, 243 NY 401; 1990 Opns St Comp, No. 90-64, p 145; 1988 Opns St Comp No. 88-70, p 137). Town Law, §81 lists several specific questions which may, upon town board motion, and shall, upon petition, be submitted to referendum. The imposition of a limitation on real property tax increases is not one of the specific listed questions in Town Law, §81.

Further, although Town Law, §81(1)(e) authorizes a petition to require a referendum on a proposition "[t]o vote upon or determine any question ... which may lawfully be submitted, pursuant to [the Town Law] or any general or special law", it has been held that this language only applies if submission of a proposition to the electorate is specifically authorized by some other law (Greene v Town Board of the Town of Warrensburg 90 AD2d 916, 456 NYS2d 873, app den 58 NY2d 604, 459 NYS2d 1027). Therefore, inasmuch as there is no other State statute which authorizes or requires the submission to referendum of a proposition to impose a limit on the amount of annual tax increases, section 81(1)(e) does not provide authority for a petition to require a referendum on that question.

Accordingly, it is our opinion that town electors may not, by petition, compel the town board to hold a referendum on a proposition to impose a limit on the amount by which real property taxes may be annually increased.

October 10, 1991
Alan M. Simon, Esq., Town Attorney
Town of Ramapo