Thursday, 14 March 2019 22:29

Oswego County Legislators, Local Officials Reject Governor’s Proposals

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Oswego County Legislators, Local Officials Reject Governor’s Proposals Supplied photo

At its March 14 meeting, Oswego County legislators urged Governor Andrew Cuomo and the State Legislature to fully restore Aid and Incentives to Municipalities (AIM) in the final 2019/2020 state budget, and spoke out against the Governor’s plan to use county sales tax revenues to cover the state’s shortfall.

The resolution adopted by the County Legislature is twofold: It opposes the Governor’s proposed elimination of AIM to towns and villages, and it rejects the Governor’s plan to shift the burden to county governments by drawing on anticipated county sales tax revenue from Internet sales. On March 13, the New York State Senate and Assembly passed their own budget proposals that restore AIM funding.

Legislature Chairman James Weatherup, District 6, Central Square, said county, town and village property taxes across New York State would be affected by the Governor’s proposals. Oswego County officials hope that a united front by the legislature, town and village leaders will help strengthen their case.

“First, when the Governor released his Executive Budget, he proposed cutting $59 million in funds from the Aid and Incentives to Municipalities program,” said Legislature Chairman Weatherup. “In Oswego County, those cuts amount to more than $500,000 to 19 towns and eight villages who have already adopted their 2019 municipal budgets. A few weeks later, in response to widespread criticism, the Governor presented an amendment that would require county governments to use anticipated sales tax revenues for AIM assistance to local governments.”

Legislature Chairman Weatherup said the Governor’s proposal would cost Oswego County taxpayers an additional $500,000 every year – equivalent to a 1 percent increase in the tax levy.

“Requiring counties to make up for the state’s cut in AIM funding to villages and towns sets an unsustainable precedent and – once again – unnecessarily shifts the state’s burden to local taxpayers, who already pay some of the highest property taxes in the nation,” he said.

Under Governor Cuomo's plan, towns and villages that rely on AIM funding for less than 2 percent of their budget would see it eliminated.

In Oswego County, the Governor’s proposed cuts would affect the town budgets of Boylston, Redfield, Amboy, Orwell, Minetto, Williamstown, Parish, Sandy Creek, New Haven, Scriba, West Monroe Palermo, Mexico, Constantia, Volney, Richland, Schroeppel and Hastings. Revenue losses range from $2,445 in Boylston to $54,295 in Hastings. The only towns not affected are Hannibal, Granby and Oswego Town. The cities of Oswego and Fulton would also receive their full AIM funds.

Hastings Town Supervisor Tony Bush said the Hastings Town Highway Department would most likely see the biggest impact in local services in his town.

“We would have to cut back on something -- whether it’s road repairs, maintenance or possibly even cutting a job,” said Bush. “This impacts every town, whether large or small. No matter what the dollar amount is, these towns budget for this money and plan on it throughout the year.”

Bush, who is president of the Town Supervisors Association of Oswego County, said town supervisors will meet later this month to discuss the issue. The Town of Hastings sees the largest cut because it has the highest population.

Bush has already spoken out against the Governor’s proposal with state elected officials and area news media.

Eight of the nine villages in the county would also see their AIM eliminated, leaving another $78,936 to be made up by village taxpayers. Cuts to the villages range from $3,825 in Lacona to $23,043 in Phoenix. Only the village of Hannibal is not affected.

M.W. “Mudd” Murphy, executive director of the Oswego County Conference of Mayors, said the conference also approved a resolution supporting the full restoration of the state aid program to local governments. The resolution was signed earlier this week by Fulton Mayor Ron Woodward Sr., Phoenix Mayor Ryan Wood, Central Square Mayor Ken Sherman, Pulaski Mayor Angel Rodriguez, Cleveland Mayor Laureen Tackman, Sandy Creek Mayor Grant Rohrmoser, Hannibal Mayor Ronald Greenleaf, Lacona Mayor Peggy Manchester, Mexico Mayor Terry E. Grimshaw, and Parish Mayor Kathryn Perkins.

County Legislator John Martino, District 6, West Monroe, chairs the Legislature’s Finance and Personnel Committee and sponsored the resolution on the floor of the County Legislature.

“It’s important that we present a united front on this issue,” said Legislator Martino. “On average, nine state mandated programs placed on county governments make up more than 90 percent of the typical county property tax levy. Here in Oswego County, 100 percent of the property tax levy pays for state mandates. These mandated costs continue to grow. Instead of restoring AIM with state funding and signifying a desire by the state to act as partners with local governments, the Governor is asking counties to make up for lost funding with sales tax revenue – creating a new mandate on counties and new hardships on property tax payers.”

The County Legislature’s March 14 resolution calls for full restoration of the AIM program in the 2019-2020 budget and commends the State Senate and Assembly for restoring AIM funding in their one-house budget proposals. The Legislature also went on record as “strongly opposing” the Governor’s 30-Day amendment proposal to require counties to use Internet sales tax revenue to offset the state’s cut to funding to villages and towns.

State Assemblyman Will Barclay has called the Governor’s proposal “a mandate on counties” and said he will work to defeat the cost shift.

“The state has provided aid to localities for many years, and the Governor’s budget proposal to completely cut AIM funding for many municipalities was met with sharp criticism,” said Assemblyman Barclay. “Instead of simply rejecting the proposed cut in his 30-day amendments, the Governor has come up with a complex scheme to have counties fund the state cut with sales tax revenue. Wouldn’t it be more fair to have the state, rather than counties, use its sales tax revenue to make up for the loss of AIM funding? During these budget negotiations, I’ll work to defeat this cost shift onto counties and push for the full restoration of AIM.”

Senator Patty Ritchie also supports the county and local governments’ position.

"For 15 years, towns and villages have depended on funding through the ‘Aid and Incentives to Municipalities’ program to overcome financial struggles that are only made worse by a continuous stream of unfunded state mandates. The AIM program has always been made possible through dedicated state budget funding—and that is how it should continue to be supported. I am strongly opposed to paying for this program through a new, not yet created tax and continue to support a true restoration of the program in the state budget," Senator Ritchie said.

Copies of the resolution will be sent to Governor Cuomo, Senator Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Assembly Leader Carl Heastie, Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb, State Senator Patty Richie, Assemblyman Will Barclay, and Assemblyman Brian Manktelow.

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