Yorktown, N.Y. – 1/31/2013 – Governor Andrew Cuomo failed to address the need for unfunded mandate relief in his State of the State. Senator Greg Ball (R, C, I – Patterson) is now renewing his call for a comprehensive unfunded mandate relief package. State Senator Greg Ball was joined at the Yorktown Town Hall by over a dozen local elected officials and school board members to address the dire fiscal problems of struggling municipalities state-wide.
Underfunded mandates drive up costs of schools, municipalities, and the property taxes. 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. “From burdensome testing requirements, local reporting nightmares, administrative bureaucracy to very specific and costly MS4 requirements there are a myriad of opportunities for Albany to deliver relief.”
Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino said that the need for unfunded mandate relief is a bipartisan issue that needs to be addressed as soon as possible.
“Nine state mandates alone currently consume 85 percent of Westchester County’s property tax levy and it’s only getting worse. Albany’s unfunded mandates are making it impossible for municipalities and schools all across the state to provide their own services, and that hurts everyone in their communities. This is an issue that unites Republicans and Democrats to say in one voice: We need real, comprehensive mandate relief delivered from Albany and we need it now,” said County Executive Astorino.
According to Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell, close to 75 percent of taxes collected in Putnam County go directly to the cost of unfunded mandates.
“As I said last October when I presented Putnam County’s 2013 Budget, the leaders in Albany continue to make a municipality’s efforts to provide necessary services an almost insurmountable challenge as they refuse to free us from the burden of more than 200 unfunded mandates,” said Odell. “Approximately 73 cents of every tax dollar collected here in Putnam goes toward paying for these state mandated but unfunded programs. That leaves us a mere 27 cents per dollar collected to provide for our residents. While Putnam County government is committed to complying with the 2% tax cap, we have to know that our counterparts in Albany are equally committed to relieving us of these progress-strapping mandates.”
According to a recent report from State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, from 2001 to 2011, total federal and state aid combined, grew at an average rate of 2.2 percent annually, slower than the rate of inflation (2.4 percent). State aid grew by $412 million from 2001 to 2011, or 1.2 percent on an average annual basis, half the rate of inflation.
From 2006 through 2011, expenses for state government grew by 17.4 percent, while revenues only increased by 15 percent. Additionally, about 24 percent of local governments that have filed with the Comptroller’s Office plan to override the tax cap this year. This is up from about 19 percent last year.
“The 2% tax cap was a good way to start the conversation about rightsizing government. However, local government and school districts are now in dire need of real unfunded mandate relief to sustain the cap without major cuts or filing for bankruptcy,” said Senator Greg Ball. “Step one begins with doing no more harm and immediately ending legislative action on all future unfunded mandates. Step two is to hold an up or down vote on a comprehensive mandate relief package.”
Yorktown Supervisor Michael Grace was happy to stand by Senator Ball in calling for real unfunded mandate relief. Grace said Yorktown could no longer be a piggy bank for Albany.
“We in Yorktown stand with Senator Ball in recognizing that in this challenging fiscal climate for local governments, mandate relief is the number one priority to ease the tax burden on our citizens,” Supervisor Michael Grace said. “After passing our town budget with a historic tax cut, Governor Cuomo’s budget proposes more flexibility we need in order to live within our means. Now is the time for the Legislature to take it one step further and hold an up or down vote on a comprehensive mandate relief package that will end the debate and get Albany out of Yorktown’s wallet.”
“Tax relief for New Yorkers cannot occur without relief from unfunded mandates pushed down from Albany upon local governments,” said Somers Supervisor Mary Beth Murphy. “Local governments have taken a regional approach to save on the cost of these mandates like storm water retrofits and water treatment but without real mandate relief from Albany it’s just a drop in the bucket.”
Town of Cortlandt Comptroller Glenn Cestaro mentioned a new unfunded mandate that has been proposed in the Governors budget that would further harm local governments.
“Another unfunded mandate that has been proposed in the Governors budget has to do with not allowing the town courts to plead down speeding tickets,” said Cestaro. “If the town does so, they will have to add an $80 surcharge onto each ticket. This could mean that on a $100 ticket the town would only receive $20, losing 80% of our revenue.”
“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 it is getting increasingly difficult to stay under the two percent tax cap with the current unfunded mandates we have in place.”
Lisa Rudley, President of the Ossining Special Education Parents & Teachers Organization said school boards all across the nation need unfunded mandate relief now.
“Districts everywhere are facing increasing costs of excessive high stakes testing mandates while trying to save core classroom resources,” said Rudley. “Without evidence of better outcomes, why are schools districts diverting more money towards government imposed unfunded mandates? School boards throughout the United States and most recently in Ossining are saying enough is enough!”
“Most districts have been running lean for a few years already. If we keep going at this rate we are going to have to resort to layoffs and cutting programs,” said Mount Pleasant School Board Member Vincent D’Ambroso. “Education is about the children, it always was, and it always should be.”
For more information, please contact Joe Bachmeier at (845) 200 9716.