Mahopac, N.Y. – 9/07/2013 – Unfunded mandates drive up costs to schools, municipalities, and counties; ultimately driving up taxes. Dozens gathered on Saturday morning at Mahopac High School to discuss combating these unfunded mandates.
Senator Greg Ball’s (R, C, I – Patterson) Unfunded Mandate Relief Advisory Council along with Mahopac Central School District Superintendent Thomas Manko hosted over 50 officials at an Emergency Unfunded Mandate and Tax Relief Roundtable on Saturday.
Albany has a long history of passing unfunded mandates down to local municipalities and schools. In part, these mandates have forced New York to have some of the highest taxes in the nation.
“Unfunded mandates are crushing our local governments and school districts all across the state. We need unfunded mandate relief and we need it now,” said Senator Greg Ball. “I am happy very happy to see the large turnout we had today. It is important that we work together to dig into these burdensome testing requirements, local reporting nightmares and administrative bureaucracy. There are a myriad of opportunities for Albany to deliver relief.”
“When it comes to paying for Albany’s and Washington’s unfunded and underfunded school mandates, school districts are left footing the bill. Here in Mahopac, we are proud of our K-12 educational program, which culminates in a Senior High School program that prepares students for college and the workforce and has been designated by Newsweek Magazine as one of “America’s Best” for four consecutive years. However, we are drowning in unfunded and underfunded mandates that must be paid for by the taxpayer and consume nearly 18% of the district’s annual budget. If we continue at this rate, layoffs will increase at a rapid pace and cutting essential programs as a solution to balance the budget will become inevitable just to pay for these mandated programs and services,” said Superintendent Manko. “I am happy to co-host this roundtable with Senator Ball and I would like to thank him for his commitment to providing us with much needed unfunded mandate relief.”
Senator John Flanagan (R, C, I – East Northport), Chairman of the New York State Senate Committee on Education also attended Senator Ball’s roundtable.
“Meaningful mandate relief for our schools is crucial to the future of our education system and I thank Senator Ball for the invitation to discuss the impact they have on this region. While school leaders have consistently expressed the need for relief, there has not been a clear consensus regarding which mandates should be repealed. This forum has allowed for an open dialogue on the issue and has helped us map out a plan that will provide the most relief to school districts and taxpayers,” stated Senator John Flanagan, Chairman of the New York State Senate Committee on Education.
The roundtable agenda focused on reviewing a survey of unfunded mandates, the mandate relief resolutions submit to Governor Cuomo’s Mandate Relief Council by schools and municipalities in the 40th Senate District and the mandates frequently raised in discussion with school administrators, municipalities, board members and the public.
In June, Senator Ball supported and passed a key piece of legislation (S1294) that would require New York State to fund any program that imposes a mandate upon municipal corporations or school districts. Unfortunately, the legislation failed in the Assembly. Senator Ball said it is vital that the Assembly passes this bill.
“When we passed the two percent tax cap, we promised real unfunded mandate relief. We must now deliver on our promise to immediately stop the bleeding and deliver this much needed mandate relief,” added Senator Ball. “We need to rally support behind this bill and urge the Assembly and the Governor to follow the Senate’s lead to stop Albany from passing along these unfunded and underfunded mandates to our local governments and schools.”
Rob Rolison, Chairman of the Dutchess County Legislature and Chairman of Senator Ball’s Unfunded Mandate Relief Advisory Council, stated, “Counties, local municipalities and schools throughout New York State are faced with unfunded mandates leaving them with limited resources for discretionary programs. Today 72% of our county budget consists of non-discretionary spending leaving only 28% of our funds to support services like Sheriff’s law enforcement patrol, emergency response, and repairs to roads and bridges. As we continue to appeal for relief, Senator Ball’s Mandate Relief Advisory Council provides the opportunity to have an open dialogue with state lawmakers of our concerns.”
“My administration has worked diligently to meet the tax cap and while I applaud the efforts of the state legislature and appreciate the need for a tax cap, I am deeply disappointed and utterly frustrated by the fact that there has been no mandate relief as promised. This year we have had to deal with more than 200 mandated programs handed to us from the state and federal governments. These unfunded mandates now consume approximately 90% of our budget. I am not sure what the Mandate Relief Council in Albany is doing, but it certainly hasn’t reduced the number of unfunded mandates here in Putnam County,” said Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell.
“In Putnam County nearly 75 percent of our taxes go directly to unfunded mandates. While the 2 percent tax cap was a good thing, we need mandate relief to continue to comply and keep our taxes down. Unfunded mandates make it very difficult for the county to properly fund law enforcement and emergency services for our people,” said Sheriff Donald B. Smith. “I am honored to join Senator Ball in his fight and I thank him for his commitment to lowering our taxes and delivering real unfunded mandate relief.”
“I am happy to stand by Senator Greg Ball in his efforts to provide real unfunded mandate relief at the local level,” said Yorktown Councilman Terrence Murphy. “Here in Yorktown we have made history by not only staying under the two percent tax cap, but delivering an unheard of 3.62 percent decrease. However, it is getting increasingly difficult to stay under the cap with the current unfunded mandates we have in place. We desperately need mandate relief and all future mandates must be funded.”
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