Written by: Barbara Livingston Nackman
YORKTOWN — State requirements cost local communities millions of dollars each year and are sending residents and businesses out of New York in search of lower taxes, said officials from Westchester and Putnam Thursday at Yorktown Town Hall.
Mandates from Albany led by Gov. Andrew Cuomo include requiring towns to redesign stormwater and water treatment systems and for school districts to conduct specific teacher performance evaluations. The bills for these requirements are paid for by local communities, not the state.
State Sen. Greg Ball, R-Patterson, gathered about 15 local officials to renew the call for a mandate relief package from Albany, which he said he hopes will reduce many of the roughly 300 mandates that fall to towns, villages, counties and school districts.
“The time has come to focus on this bipartisan issue that draws us together,” Ball said standing alongside officials, including town supervisors Mary Beth Murphy of Somers and Michael Grace of Yorktown and Mahopac school board members Earle Bellows and Leslie Mancuso.
The governor set up an 11-member Mandate Relief Council in January 2011 to review and suggest ways to reduce regulatory burden on communities. Also, local communities may appeal to the committee for flexibility in adhering to a special mandate. Cuomo’s office did not return calls for a comment Thursday afternoon and he did not mention mandate relief in his annual State of State address.
Ball said residents and businesses are moving from New York to escape the high taxes that are due to the mandates.
Yorktown Councilman Nick Bianco said it cost the town twice as much to have trees removed following recent storms because of state requirements on bidding and not being able to hire at the prevailing wage as opposed to union wages, even for emergency repairs.
Bellows said the state offers $27,000 for teacher evaluations when the actual cost to implement the required program is closer to $250,000 a year.
“That is more than two teacher salaries,” he said. “We are looking to spend our resources on education and programs — and this just cuts into our resources.”
Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino said mandates are strangling municipalities and school districts.
“We have to get this foot off the throats of our towns, the county and school districts,” he said estimating that 85 percent of Westchester County’s tax levy goes to the state for nine mandates. (ARTICLE)