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Hudson Valley County Exec Hits The Road For Local Government Reform

Ulster County Executive Mike Hein
Ulster County Executive Mike Hein

The Ulster County executive is behind a statewide tour to learn how municipalities in New York are best coping with fiscal challenges. This comes during an era of unfunded mandates and a two-percent property tax cap. He says the idea is to prevent communities from becoming distressed or on the brink of bankruptcy.

The initiative is called PAYGo NY. Ulster County Executive Michael Hein says it harkens back to a philosophy of pay as you go. Hein is also president of the New York State County Executives Association.

Hein kicked off PAYGo New York in Albany Tuesday, and will next head to Long Island.

The aim is to find out how municipalities are staying within the state’s 2-percent property tax cap and paying for unfunded mandates, while retaining essential programs and services. And while Hein says he looks forward to learning about innovations elsewhere in the state, he points to one of his own.

S.T.R.I.V.E. stands for Strategic Taxpayer Relief through Innovative Visions in Education, and is the county executive’s initiative to transfer Sophie Finn Elementary School to SUNY Ulster for redevelopment as a community college satellite campus adjacent to Kingston High School.

Director of Governmental Relations at the New York State School Boards Association David Little says PAYGo is a worthwhile endeavor.

And he gives an example of collaboration facilitated by removing a regulatory barrier.

He refers to a cooperative purchasing statute passed last year in New York, but held up because of a technical amendment currently before the state legislature. Cooperative purchasing would allow municipalities to purchase goods and services on the internet and from other states, and Little points out the technical amendment would allow best value to come into play in addition to the lowest bid when granting contracts and services. He says PAYGo will look for other ways, like this, to break down barriers.

Just last week, a newly-formed coalition of Westchester citizens, school officials, business representatives and elected officials launched a “Stop Taking Our Power” campaign. Republican Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino says the time has come to put pressure on New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, and the state legislature to pass meaningful mandate relief. The coalition started a “Stop Albany” petition to bring an end to what they call mandate madness, a petition being promoted through social media.

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