Municipal leaders had a message for state lawmakers when they gathered in Albany for the New York Conference of Mayors Winter Legislative Meeting this week: don’t cut our funding.
Mayors from municipalities across New York state are warning against Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed cuts to Aid and Incentives to Municipalities funding. The governor’s budget proposal presented the cut as a relatively painless way for the state to save $60 million, but representatives at NYCOM said it would leave some 1,300 municipalities with budget gaps. Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy, a Democrat like the governor, is NYCOM’s executive committee president.
“Villages who are getting by are gonna have to raise taxes or reduce services, and we’d like the legislature to consider that impact, and hopefully restore [the funding] and look for some incentives that will allow communities to continue to deliver services at a cost-effective manner," says McCarthy.
Mayor Scott Burto of West Carthage, a village in Jefferson County in northern New York, had more pointed words. He accused the governor of trying to “buy consolidation,” by pressuring villages to combine already-stressed departments.
“Governor Cuomo has been critical of President Trump, and says that his changes to SALT are a direct impact on New Yorkers," Burto noted. "Well, in my opinion, his proposed cut to AIM funding is a direct impact to the villages and towns of New York state.”
Officials urged lawmakers to increase municipal aid for the first time in a decade. Mayor Richard David of Binghamton specifically pointed to infrastructure funding. With the cost of upholding federal ADA standards, and maintaining water and sewer lines, David said current funding from the state’s Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program, or CHIPS, doesn’t cut it.
“I’ll give you an example, just for the city of Binghamton: our CHIPS allocation is approximately $1.1 million annually – the cost to address the ADA compliance on an annual basis is $800,000," David explained.
One proposal officials approved of: applying the sales tax to all Internet sales in the state. As more consumers look to giants like Amazon for their everyday needs, declining local business has shrunken sales tax revenue. Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan said the governor’s proposal is a step in the right direction, but says the state needs to ensure such revenue is evenly distributed in a way that reaches municipalities.
“In the city of Albany, we’re fortunate, we have a sharing relationship with Albany County…and so we will see that revenue," Sheehan says. "That’s not the same for all of the municipalities here, and we think that it’s going to be very important that we have this conversation as the state budget is finalized.”
As New York considers legalizing recreational marijuana this session, Sheehan maintains local governments should be given a share of excise tax revenues.
“We are the ones that are going to have to train our police officers. We are the ones that are going to have to deal with zoning issues. We are the ones that are going to have to deal with those unintended consequences," notes Sheehan. "And not a single penny of the revenue is coming to any of the municipalities that you see represented here – any of the local governments that you see across the state. That’s a conversation that we need to have.”
For his part, Gov. Cuomo says his administration is taking a "second look" at the proposed AIM cuts.
More than 175 mayors and municipal officials across the state attended the NYCOM Winter Legislative meeting, with many testifying before the budget committee as part of the annual tradition known as Tin Cup Day.