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North Country Officials Concerned About Proposed Aid To Municipalities Cuts

The state capitol in Albany
Dave Lucas
The state capitol in Albany

Towns and villages across New York are concerned about Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposed cuts to AIM – state Aid and Incentives for Municipalities.  In the North Country, almost all communities would lose funding.
Governor Cuomo did not mention adjusting AIM Payments to towns and villages during his budget address in mid-January.  But on page 115 of the Democrat’s budget briefing book, there is a proposal to eliminate payments to towns and villages “scheduled to receive payments that are less than two percent of their total local fiscal year 2017 expenditures…”.   The reasoning cited is that the finding is not a significant source of revenue and affected communities would be eligible for other state programs and incentives.  Cuomo’s budget proposes cutting the current $714.7 million to $655.5 million.

The idea is not sitting well as most towns and villages would lose their state allocation.  In Clinton County all municipalities except two would have their funding cut to zero, a total loss of more than $400,000 in AIM funds. Town of Plattsburgh Supervisor Michael Cashman says his community would lose over $92,000 if the cut is approved.   “That may not seem like a large amount in the overall budget of approximately $13 million but the monies that come into the Town of Plattsburgh are used very strategically. Whenever there’s a shift in funds coming into our municipality we have to sharpen the pencil further. So that will come off the top. And then it will be less funding as we focus on our priority projects in the future.”

While the cuts are not to counties, Clinton County Legislature Chair Harry McManus is concerned. He says there will be a ripple effect as towns turn to the county as they try to deal with the loss of funds.  “I looked at some of the figures locally in Clinton County and they’re staggering for small communities. I mean they don’t have the tax base. If you look at the villages in Champlain and Rouses Point they’re not going to be able to absorb this. And the towns are even worse. So even though the counties are not involved the counties are affected because if services have to be cut back where does the county fit in?  And the town budgets were just completed. So if this goes through in April they’re going to see a 75 percent cut in the monies they already thought they were going to get.”

McManus says there has been a hue and cry upstate over the proposal and he hasn’t heard an acceptable reason for the proposed cuts.  “The funding could be restored by the Legislature. We’ll just wait and see the end result of it but I’m very concerned about the towns because, as I said, their budgets are done. Villages I think it’s June 1st  so they would at least be able to factor that in a little bit. But you take $10,000 away from a small community with very little tax base you could see double dig…and then you take the money away and they have to go over the tax cap. Does that make any sense? No it does not.”

In Clinton County only the city of Plattsburgh and the village of Dannemora would receive funds from the Aid and Incentives for Municipalities. Under the proposal they would be flat funded at $2,648,880 and $108,795, respectively.