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In a rematch between Rep. Chris Jacobs, a Republican, and Democrat Nate McMurray for the 27th Congressional District seat, Jacobs says his opponent has a track record of raising taxes and a desire to do so again.
In a large postcard sent to voters, the Jacobs campaign links McMurray with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of Queens and says: "Nate McMurray Big Tax, Big Spend: An AOC Progressive Who Will Raise Taxes."
The mailer claims that "While serving as Town Supervisor, Nate McMurray voted to raise taxes on homeowners."
We were curious about McMurray’s record on Grand Island, where he served as supervisor for four years, beginning in 2016.
We spoke with McMurray, who confirmed that as a member of the town board on Grand Island, he voted to slightly increase taxes. He also proposed budgets, as supervisor, with slight tax increases, he said.
During all four years of his tenure, the increases remained under the property tax cap, he said. He also said that he was one of five people on the board, where Republicans held the other four seats.
"I had no control to raise taxes myself," he said.
Taxes increased about $27 in 2018 for a house assessed at $210,600. The tax rate for the general fund, which makes up a large amount of town spending, decreased by 3.1%, but an increase in the sewer district tax led to the increase. The 20% of residents without sewer access generally did not have an increase.
The town’s official meeting minutes of the board session with the budget vote show that McMurray voted in favor of the increase.
McMurray said he sometimes had to fight to keep the increases from getting too high during negotiations with other board members. "I’m one of five, and everybody has their pet thing."
In the 2019 budget, adopted in late 2018, the tax levy, or the amount raised in taxes, increased by 28% on Grand Island for the sewer system fund, though overall levy increase was 2.63 percent. Rates increased only for people using the sewer system and went down for those who do not. The combined levy for the general and highway funds fell by 4%. McMurray voted in favor of this budget.
The town's sewer system needed costly repairs, and a prior administration reached a deal with the state Department of Environmental Conservation, McMurray said. It was his administration's obligation to fund them, he said, a statement supported by a 2017 outside auditor's report.
The general fund tax rate was lower when he left office than it was during his first year, but that is not true of all of the funds that tax residents.
McMurray said that the mailer makes it seem like he was recklessly raising taxes as supervisor. "It’s acting like we’re willy-nilly raising taxes," he said. "Sure, there was a moderate increase under the tax cap."
McMurray has campaigned on his fiscal management of Grand Island, including a claim from 2018, in which he said he was a "small-town supervisor who has kept a balanced budget, who has increased surpluses, who has led us to the highest credit rating our town has ever had." PolitiFact rated that claim True.
Jacobs said McMurray voted to raise taxes on homeowners while he was town supervisor on Grand Island.
McMurray said that he raised taxes slightly while he was supervisor, which is corroborated by other documents. He also said that he couldn’t do anything unilaterally, and that he was a member of a five-member board.
We rate Jacobs’ claim True.
Jacobs for Congress mail piece, via New York Republican State Committee, "Nate McMurray Big Tax, Big Spend: An AOC Progressive Who Will Raise Taxes."
Email interview, Cam Savage, Limestone Strategies, Rep. Chris Jacobs campaign spokesperson, Oct. 23, 2020.
Phone interview, Nate McMurray, Democratic candidate, NY-27, Oct. 23, 2020, Oct. 26, 2020.
Email exchange, Nicole Hushla Re, spokeswoman, Nate McMurray, Oct. 22, 2020.
The Buffalo News, article, "Grand Island adopts budget with slight tax rise," Nov. 10, 2017. Accessed Oct. 25, 2020.
The Buffalo News, article, "Mixed picture on taxes in Northtowns as budget season wraps up," Nov. 12, 2018. Accessed Oct. 25, 2020.
The Buffalo News, article, "Grand Island raises tax levy for 2020 by 3.5%, stays within tax cap," Nov. 8, 2019. Accessed Oct. 25, 2020.
Independent Auditor's Report for the Town of Grand Island, Bonadio and Co., Dec. 31, 2017. Accessed Oct. 26, 2020.
Minutes from Grand Island Town Board Workshop Meeting #32, Nov. 9, 2017.
Minutes from Grand Island Town Board Workshop Meeting #36, Nov. 8, 2018.
PolitiFact New York, "McMurray claims financial victories on Grand Island," Aug. 29, 2018. Accessed Oct. 25, 2020.
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