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Originally published: January 4, 2012 7:21 PM
By E.J. MCMAHON
Photo credit: AP Photo/Mike Groll | New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo walks to the podium to deliver his second State of the State speech at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center in Albany, N.Y., on Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2012.
‘The largest convention center in the nation, period” — in Queens? Is he kidding?
Nope. In his State of the State address Wednesday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo did, indeed, tout the same sort of white elephant already being chased by states and cities across the country.
Cuomo envisions a “state-of-the-art” facility at Aqueduct Racetrack nearly 20 percent bigger than the 3.1 million square foot McCormick Place convention center in Chicago — which, as it happens, is reported to be running at only 55 percent capacity after a costly expansion of its own. In fact, as Steve Malanga of the Manhattan Institute think tank points out, there was already a nationwide glut of convention-center capacity even before the recession put a big dampener on the entire sector.
Elsewhere in the country, taxpayers are being stuck with the bill for underused, publicly subsidized convention-center and hotel space. Cuomo, however, said the state would pursue the Queens project as a $4 billion joint venture with the private operator of the Aqueduct racino.
This expectation, in turn, is surely based in part on the governor’s hope that New York voters in 2013 will approve a constitutional amendment expanding casino gambling — one of his other top economic development priorities.
“It will be all about jobs, jobs, jobs, tens of thousands of jobs,” the governor said.
As job-creation strategies go, convention centers and casinos are straight out of a 1970s playbook. In this respect, Cuomo’s “New NY” agenda looks more like “Old NJ” — Atlantic City, N.J., that is, if on a much bigger scale.
Thankfully, a few better ideas surfaced here and there later in the governor’s message. For example, he called for an “energy highway system” to link hydropower plants in Quebec and northern New York with energy-hungry consumers in the downstate region. If Cuomo is committing his formidable political skills to expanding the state’s electrical grid, it can only be good news for the entire New York economy.
Cuomo also reaffirmed his call to reform public pensions through creation of a new pension tier. He stressed that pension benefits would be scaled back only for employees “not even hired yet” — but then, almost in the same breath, proclaimed that pension reform cannot wait because “we have taxpayers who need help today.”
It’s too bad Cuomo still isn’t assigning the same sort of urgency to mandate relief in general, an issue that became more pressing after last year’s enactment of the governor’s historic property tax cap.
In his first State of the State message, Cuomo shunted local mandate concerns to a “redesign team,” which essentially accomplished nothing. He now says he’ll look for more from a mandate relief advisory council created by the legislature last June. While not exactly encouraging, this approach offers at least a glimmer of hope to local officials, who need Cuomo to lead the charge on statutory changes that would make it easier to restructure costly labor union contracts.
It was good news, too, that Cuomo pledged to “hold the line on spending this year and close the remaining budget deficit with no new taxes and no new fees.” Of course, this will be made somewhat easier by the governor’s agreement with the legislature last month to extend $2.6 billion in higher income-tax rates on million-dollar earners, offset in part by small rate cuts for middle-class filers.
“We stimulated the economy by providing a middle-class tax cut,” the governor said.
That economy-stimulating income tax cut works out to about $3.84 a week for a typical family of four in the New York suburbs. Don’t wager it all in one place.
ICYMI – Mr. Astorino goes to Westchester
A great example of both effetive small government local leadership and standing up to unfair and improper Federal overreach (for all intent purposes a/k/a Federal mandates)
National Review by Patrick Brennan
More or less, a Republican executive in a deep blue district. Over the past two years, county executive Rob Astorino has garnered widespread attention and praise for defending his county against racially tinged federal overreach in a mundane affordable-housing case, while also reducing the onerous costs of county government.
In recent decades, Westchester’s wealth has fed a gargantuan government, which levies the fifth-highest property-tax rates of any county in America – residents pay a staggering 7.8 percent of the median income in property taxes.
New York State also requires a particularly burdensome system of local government – regional government, county legislatures, county executives, and a wide range of county services all weigh down Westchester with a budget of $1.8 billion.
In 2009, residents decided that their taxes had grown too oppressive and their government too big, and ended a twelve-year Democratic reign in the executive’s office. A year after Obama won more than 65 percent of the vote in the county, Republican Rob Astorino was elected as Westchester’s county executive by a margin of 16 points.
Astorino, a successful radio commentator first on ESPN Radio and then with Sirius’s Catholic Channel, is a calm but convincing advocate for conservative principles. In an interview in his office with National Review Online, Astorino highlighted the three issues he has emphasized as county executive, which he considers the key roles of local government anywhere: making sure property taxes are reasonable, maintaining essential services, and attracting businesses and economic development.
Astorino’s victory in a prominently liberal area garnered him national media attention, but he says that he wasn’t aware of his national profile at all until the morning after his election – when “CNN and the networks were outside my front door, and Rush Limbaugh was talking about me.” Limbaugh cited Astorino as a successful candidate crusading against big government in a “deep blue” region.
Prior to Astorino’s election, Westchester had begun a large affordable-housing project with funding from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The previous county executive, Andrew Spano, had settled a 2009 suit by a local anti-discrimination group with the federal government, agreeing that Westchester would build 750 units of housing in predominately white areas, in order to meet its obligation to “affirmatively further fair and affordable housing.”
After Astorino was elected, President Obama’s HUD required the county government to submit a document identifying potential “impediments” to the affordable-housing project, and suggesting actions to overcome them. HUD has repeatedly rejected the county’s analysis, despite the fact that the settlement-mandated construction of units is ahead of schedule and compliant with Westchester’s agreed-upon settlement.
On May 13, 2011, HUD sent another letter to the county government essentially admitting as much, insisting that Westchester go “beyond the four corners of the settlement” in a few ways. Obama’s HUD seemed to be unhappy for two reasons: not enough spending, and not enough government control. First, HUD insisted that more than 50 percent of all homes constructed have three bedrooms, which would more than double the county’s costs from $51.6 million to about $100 million, a price unreasonable for a county with strained finances. Secondly, HUD has requested that the county sue towns to dismantle their zoning laws on, among other things, multifamily housing, despite the fact that the settlement doesn’t require it, and towns have been able to cooperate in the housing settlement without demolishing their own local laws.
Astorino has insisted that the county will abide by the terms of the original federal settlement, and emphatically rejected HUD’s demands as unaffordable outlays and troubling overreach in response to a non-existent problem. Allocating all of the new housing to members of minority groups would increase Westchester’s minority population by just 5 percent, while it naturally increased 56 percent from 2000 to 2010, and the county remains ahead of schedule on financing and constructing the housing units. Astorino explained local residents’ dismay with what federal authorities “have called . . . their grand experiment” and their issuance of an “integration order.” (Westchester is the fourth most diverse county in the state – tied with New York County, also known as Manhattan.) Astorino has stood fast, however, and told me the national controversy has not distracted him from his county reforms, which the county government desperately needed.
One almost cannot overstate the tax burden imposed on Westchester residents. Residents of Fairfield, a similarly affluent county next door in Connecticut, pay half as much property taxes as residents of Westchester. Astorino notes, “Ninety-nine out of 100 times, when you talk to someone in this county, whether Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative, it is ‘Stop this tax madness, now.'”
Westchester has a substantial population of senior citizens, and the combination of once rapidly rising property values and a constantly increasing tax levy has made the situation untenable for many. Astorino explained a truly shocking trend: Many Westchester senior citizens now find themselves paying more money in annual property taxes than they did on their home mortgages, and many are exchanging their New York houses for Florida condos as a result.
Property taxes, for better or worse, aren’t like income taxes, whose incentive effects are not always so tangible. When property taxes reach an unsustainable level, citizens are forced to sell their homes and communities are visibly altered. Moreover, property taxes fall upon residents regardless of their current income. No good comes of high taxes, of course, but there is a silver lining to Westchester’s property-tax rates: By showing citizens the real cost of their government, they have forced liberals and conservatives alike to address government waste.
Despite constantly rising outlays, Astorino has done his best to maintain or reduce Westchester’s tax levy, a marked difference from the constant inflation seen under Democratic executives. (In his first full-year budget, he reduced the total levy by 2 percent, and will hold it steady in his 2012 budget.)
Much of New York’s county-level bloat is due to the number of services, including Medicaid, that New York State provides through county governments. But the government is essentially redundant in other respects, as indicated by a couple of the budget reforms he highlights.
Westchester’s twelve county homeless shelters were operating well under capacity, thanks to notably successful efforts in relocating homeless citizens to permanent housing. In fact, two shelters were running only about 50 percent full on the average night – but costing the county as if they were filled by homeless every night. Sensibly, Astorino decided to close these two shelters, saving a significant amount of money while leaving the system with plenty of remaining capacity. He noted that, because it involved layoffs, even such an obvious fix was lambasted: “The narrative from the other side was, we’re throwing homeless people out in the street.”
Another of Astorino’s reforms was similarly demonized. The county government was administering Section 8 housing vouchers on behalf of the state, losing about $700,000 a year over and above state reimbursements, when they could have contracted it to the state. Seeing an opportunity, Astorino cancelled the contract – state employees now provide the same Section 8 services at no loss to the county, and work in the same county office building, for which the state pays the county $237,000 a year in rent. But even this seemingly obvious solution, which saves the county almost $1 million a year, was heavily opposed. Siding with the public-sector union involved, the Democratic county legislature insisted unsuccessfully that the government rehire the county workers for what Astorino calls “no-show jobs,” since the state now provided the service.
Astorino’s profile has not diminished – after unveiling his 2012 county budget in November, he was featured on Fox Business Network to explain why union members’ refusal to contribute to their own health-care costs forced 210 layoffs in his 2012 county budget. His combination of personal appeal and policy knowledge seem to suggest great political potential, but when I prompted him about future ambitions, he smiled and demurred, emphasizing his long-term commitment to reform in Westchester. In fact, he appreciates the challenge and opportunity Westchester represents, noting that “there’s a lot at stake, there are a lot of smart people in this county, and they understand what we’re doing.”
He attributes his vigorous approach to government reform to his concern for the problems of his home county, and to his wider beliefs about the proper function of government: “The county is tangled with the state,” but Westchester, as a large county, can be “a model, a laboratory for the rest of the state and the federal government. If we can do it in Westchester, it can be done elsewhere.”
Indeed, sentiment in the county about Astorino’s performance, despite controversy and austerity, seems to be quite positive: The most obvious vindication of Westchester’s new government was November’s county-legislature election. In three excruciatingly close races, the Republicans managed to pick up two seats, breaking the veto-overriding Democratic supermajority and securing both a political mandate and a practical way forward for reform.
Rob Astorino’s success in Westchester County is due in no small part to unique factors: his charisma and command of the issues, and taxpayers who have emphatically rejected onerous taxes. But as counties and municipalities across America must confront worsening fiscal situations, Astorino has shown that successes are possible anywhere, even Westchester, with smart reforms and political will. Astorino, agonistes no longer, has crusaded for small government, and won more converts than anyone would have expected.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
As we’ve explained before when it comes to mandates, they come in many forms, and is a definition that covers many areas. The following is surely one. With the states failure to address and correct this problem they are effectively mandating that we the taxpayers of NY be stuck and burdened with Billions in unfair, improper, unnecessary costs! (Note: As a part of another effort we’re involved in, we’ve been warning about this problem and calling for a fix for years now. About five years ago this was 5.5 billion a year problem projected to reach 10 billion in another 5 years if left unchecked. Well it now reached 9.4 billion and enough is enough.)
Tell New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to Prevent New York Subcontractors from Hiring Illegal Aliens
Every year, New York spends about $4,380,808,000 on building and repairing roads and highways. This is money that comes directly from New York taxpayers. Unfortunately, New York does not require its subcontractors or employees to verify that its workers are in this country legally, leaving them free to hire as many illegal aliens as they wish with your tax money!
With 760,000 New York residents unemployed, Gov. Cuomo cannot allowing this to continue. It’s bad enough that illegal aliens cost New York $9,479,000,000 each year. Allowing illegal aliens to have continued access to New York’s job opportunities only encourages them to remain in New York illegally.
Unemployed New York residents should not have to compete against illegal aliens for jobs. Please send the free fax below urging Gov. Cuomo to require New York state agencies and subcontractors to ensure that everyone being employed using New York tax dollars is in this country legally.
For the sake of every unemployed American worker in our state, I urge you to take all necessary steps to ensure that no taxpayer dollars are used to hire illegal aliens.
It is very disappointing that with so many unemployed Americans in our state, state law does not require state subcontractors to hire American workers (or even legal immigrants). To put it another way, subcontractors are free to hire illegal aliens without any fear of being punished by the state. How absurd is this? Taxpayers are spending untold millions on infrastructure projects such as road repairs, but the workers we hire don’t even have to be Americans. This needs to change.
I hope you will act in the interests of taxpayers and the jobless in our state and make sure that state agencies and contractors are required to hire legal workers. Otherwise, taxpayer dollars are being used to hire illegal workers, which doesn’t help anyone.
(Your Name Will Appear Here)
Now for today’s moment in regulatory, big brother, malaise:
NYC restaurant closed after owner recorded health inspection
Posted at 9:50 am on January 11, 2012 by Howard Portnoy
It’s time for another episode of America’s favorite game Name that Crime.
In this episode, a New York restaurant that earned a top grade of “A” barely five months ago was shut down after the owner made a recording on his iPhone of an inspection by the city health department.
George’s, a 60-year-old downtown fixture that had to be rebuilt after the attacks of 9/11, was shuttered after the inspector became aware that owner Bill Koulmentas was crafting a memento of his visit. The diner was slapped with enough violations to close it down.
Among the offenses, totaling 65 points (28 is the cutoff for the lowest grade, a “C”), were harboring cracked eggs, keeping cold food too hot, and keeping hot food too cold.
The New York Post reports that Koulmentas decided to record the visit after “Inspector Kenneth Reid began writing one trumped-up violation after another.”
At one point, Reid crawled under a dishwasher and reported finding 13 roaches in the wall. So Koulmentas repeated the procedure but came up bugless. He offered the inspector $1,000 if he could produce a single roach.
But Reid had other fish to fry—or prevent from being fried, as the case might be. Among the violations he recorded was the contamination of a batch of cooked potatoes and peppers “by one loose screw (approximately one inch in size) resting on food surface on grill.”
Koulmentas protests, “They can do anything they want. Something’s out of control here. It’s lies, lies, lies.”
The New York City Health Department received low marks of its own after the local FOX affiliate performed an undercover investigation of several Starbucks coffee branches that had received “A” grades by inspectors. Swabs taken from countertops and self-serve milk dispensers revealed the presence of Enterococcus, fecal strep, E. coli, and Klebsiella.
In the case of George’s, a Health Department spokesman quoted by the Post defends the inspection, noting that previous inspections of the restaurant turned up a plethora of violations. Still, when you read about police arresting citizens for the “crime” of recording a traffic stop, you have to wonder how far an overzealous health inspector is willing to go.
- 1,000 NYC pedestrians injured despite (because of?) Bloomberg’s goofy bike lanes
- Bloomberg declares NYC restaurant letter grades “a success”E. coli found at NYC Starbucks that received “A” grades from NYC Health Dept
- NYC Health Department: Meet your Tea Party
- NY news cameraman arrested for filming police chase (Video, Updated)
- Transit police wrongly detain man for taking pictures
- The war on salt and personal freedom heats up
- New York restaurants will be required not only to make the grade but to reveal their GPA
12/3/2011 10:18:08 AM
Mandate relief for 80 percent of local and state government budgets are next on the agenda for Unshackle Upstate, a bi-partisan coalition focused on fixing New York State government. Executive Director Brian Sampson says those costs are tied directly to the public workforce. Sampson made his comments Friday at the Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce’s annual meeting near Jamestown. Sampson’s organization pushed state lawmakers to approve a 2-percent property tax cap this past year. He says this is the next step…
Ballston Journal Nov 23, 2011
The reason for the proposed sales or property tax increase in Saratoga County is an imbalance between revenue and expenses. Part of our expenses are driven by unfunded mandates from the state. It is time for us to stop accepting these unfunded mandates. Unfunded mandates are illegal in 27 states, including Massachusetts, California, and Illinois. Governor Cuomo chartered a team to address Mandate Relief, and that team recommended a constitutional amendment, and in the meantime a state law, to prohibit unfunded mandates in NY State.
Raising taxes is not the solution. Rejecting unfunded mandates is the solution. I call on the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors to stand up to the State and reject unfunded mandates. This situation should be the catalyst to put the recommendations of the Mandate Relief Team in action. With the economic and fiscal environment that we have today, both in NY State and in the country at large, the time is right to put pressure on Albany to get this done.
Lisa Donovan, Ballston Spa
(Lisa is a member of the Upstate Conservative Coalition)
County considers not paying Medicaid
November 22, 2011 By MICHAEL ANICH , The Leader Herald
“Once we stand up and make a decision, I think a lot of people will follow along,” Caroga Supervisor James Selmser said.
County Administrative Officer said no counties have adopted binding resolutions to withhold Medicaid payments. He said the state comptroller’s office says the state can withhold the counties’ weekly shares of sales tax if such action is taken.
The full board will meet again at 1 p.m. Monday, the same day four public hearings have been scheduled for the County Office Building. Supervisors will hold public hearings on the budget at 2 and 7 p.m. at the County Office building, as well as hold public hearings on a possible override of the tax cap at 1:30 and 6:30 p.m.
Board Chairman David Howard of Bleecker, who agreed with the Fagan motion, said 84 percent of the county’s tax levy is mandated by the state. He said Fulton County pays $266,000 per week in Medicaid bills. Howard said two months of Medicaid payments equals two months of costs for the Sheriff’s Department road patrol, which the county may consider eliminating in a budget move.
One week of Medicaid payments would pay for the county Planning Department, which also was targeted as a potential cut, he said.
“I’m tired of taking away services from the people of this county to pay for a bill that shouldn’t be ours,” he said. “I think we need to start protecting our own people. We need to stop being afraid of the state.”
Howard said mandate relief from the state simply isn’t there.
“It’s been promised for so long,” he stated. “We’re all getting old waiting for it.”
Some supervisors were against withholding Medicaid, including Gloversville 6th Ward Supervisor Richard Ottalagano.
“I can’t put ourselves in jeopardy like this,” he said.
Stead said many counties are struggling to meet the tax cap, and are taking such measures as selling their nursing homes – which Fulton County also is doing. But many counties are meeting the cap, he said, either by layoffs or “draining their fund balance.”
Gloversville 3rd Ward Supervisor Michael F. Gendron, chairman of the Finance Committee, said the state won’t help the county, and he commented on the original 2 percent state tax cap legislation.
“We have to adopt a budget with no help from the outside,” he said. “I was naive enough to think 2 percent was doable.”
Howard noted several people who spoke at last week’s meeting, especially Sheriff’s Department supporters, but none “had a solution” to reduce the tax levy.
“What about the silent majority of residents who didn’t come to the podium?” Gendron asked.
Ain’t they just a hoot: Labor to give Diana new “award”
MidHudson News Nov 23, 2011
GOSHEN – The Hudson Valley Area Labor Federation, which is comprised of labor unions across the region, will present their own special award to Orange County Executive Edward Diana just hours before the Thanksgiving holiday. The organization will present him with their “Turkey of the Year Award” for his call to defund the Valley View nursing home at mid-year in 2012.
The unions say defunding, which they claim would shut it down, would result in the layoffs of hundreds of union civil servants and displace those residents living at the nursing home.
The county legislature, meanwhile, wants to explore finding a buyer for the facility to keep it operating, something Diana said he would support.
HEAR today’s news on MidHudsonRadio.com, the Hudson Valley’s only Internet radio news report.
MidHudson News Nov 22, 2011
KINGSTON – If Ulster County opts to seek a private operator to buy its Golden Hill nursing home in Kingston, it would be a two year process as proposed by County Executive Michael Hein.
As the county legislature mulls over the proposal, which would include creating a local development corporation to fund and operate it during the interim, a cost analysis has been conducted by Hein’s office.
In a memo from Deputy County Executive Marshall Beckman to Legislator Wayne Harris, who sought the costs involved, he said the two-year total of personnel costs with benefits amounts to $48.7 million. Of that, personnel costs are $30.8 million with benefits equaling $17.8 million. Per employee, that breaks down to $121,345 on average during the two year period of 2012 to 2013.
The proposal to privatize Golden Hill is included in Hein’s 2012 county budget, which must be approved by county lawmakers.
Albany County’s executive-elect says shutting county’s nursing home, job cuts likely without overriding 2% limit
By CAROL DEMARE, Times Union Staff writer Updated 08:24 a.m., Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Other county legislative leaders, however, aren’t raising the red flag just yet. The matter has to be aired, budget cuts have to be explored gingerly, and the public will have a voice, they said.
Lame duck County Executive Mike Breslin’s proposed $565 million budget for next year calls for a 19.2 percent property tax hike. Throughout his 17-year tenure, Breslin pushed for tough cuts in programs, some of which the legislature reinstated in the final budgets. This time, the legislature is left with the tough job.
“Our office has had a lot of discussion with the legislature over what services are mandated by the state or federal governments and which are not,” Breslin spokeswoman Mary Duryea said. “It’s now up to the legislature as to how they want to proceed … on what they want to cut or not cut.”
Renee Barchitta of Colonie, a member of the Albany County Nursing Home Core Family Council, attends the legislature’s monthly meetings and updates lawmakers on the home where her 88-year-old mother is a resident.
Nursing home advocates spoke out a few years ago after Breslin said he planned on closing the 250-bed facility on Albany Shaker Road in Colonie. The group won the support of legislators, most of whom said not only would they not allow the closure, but proposed building a new facility.
This week Barchitta talked to McCoy about the budget. She said he told her he didn’t see enough votes to override and suggested she start looking for another place for her mother to live.
McCoy told her to bring the advocates to a Nov. 29 public hearing on the override, she said. Barchitta fears that with political differences among Democrats in the legislature, the nursing home could be lost in the squeeze.
Majority Leader Frank Commisso said he was unaware of talk to close the nursing home or make wholesale cuts and layoffs. He has called a party caucus for Monday night to discuss the budget.
“We have to listen to the public first (Tuesday night) and then have another meeting toward the end of the week,” Commisso said.
Deputy Majority Leader Shawn Morse of Cohoes, chairman of the Audit and Finance Committee, said he is concerned that not “everybody is focusing on the county government’s responsibility in taking care of the indigent and providing the social programs that put a roof over people’s heads, puts food in the bellies of children, and makes sure people aren’t sick and left without health care.”
He decried the political upheaval over “a new county executive, new legislature chairman, new majority leader — a political cloud hovering over the legislature.”
Legislator Gary Domalewicz, chairman of the Nursing Home Facilities Committee that is looking into the construction of a new home, said the idea of closing the facility is “ridiculous.”
“We are not going to shut down our nursing home and send our elderly seniors and longtime Democrats out on the street,” he said. “Democrats don’t do that. I don’t know where Danny is coming from, telling people we are closing the nursing home.”
He said he found at least $9 million that can get the budget close to the 2 percent without closing the nursing home or laying off workers. He mentioned $4.5 million in sales tax revenues for the third quarter, another $3 million in vacant jobs that are being eliminated, and holding off on a new sprinkling system for the nursing home for a savings of $1.6 million.
Democrat Ray Joyce said simply, “We will do our best, as we’ve done every year, to trim the budget as best as possible and in three years get to that 2 percent.”
Updated: November 23, 2011, 6:44 AM
LITTLE VALLEY — Cattaraugus County legislators voted unanimously Wednesday to adopt a $213.3 million budget for 2012 which stays within the state’s 2 percent property tax cap and calls for 45 job cuts.
The vote came after a two-week process during which legislators struggled to make changes to comply with the state’s property tax cap, yet retain jobs, services and programs.
Chairman Michael O’Brien, RPortville, said after the vote, “It’s just not a good budget, because the state mandates made us make decisions we’d have handled in other ways.”
As a result of budget tightening, the Community Service Department will no longer be funded after Sept. 30. It provides mental health clinical services to 1,300 clients. A private vendor will be solicited to continue the program. In all, 23 positions and the director will be cut.
O’Brien said employees will have “bumping rights” to change jobs.
Other jobs cut are in the Youth Bureau, Health Department, Nursing Homes, Public Works, Department of Economic Development and Planning, Department of Aging, Social Services, and Motor Vehicles.
The new budget is an increase of $1.2 million from the current budget of $212.1 million, and calls for a tax levy of $49.5 million, up from $47.5 million this year. The full value tax rate will increase from $12.25 to $12.55 per $1,000 of assessed property value.
The budget process was led by County Administrator John Searles, who said after the meeting, “This was an exceedingly difficult budget, one nobody was happy with the end result. We will be able to live within the tax cap and we did sacrifice mileage, programs and services.”
Legislators agreed to give up 10 cents per mile reimbursement and will receive 45.5 cents per mile next year.
There were several speakers at the public hearing regarding the budget. All were county workers representing the CSEA union leadership. Those union members will get 3 percent raises next year, which total about $1.4 million overall.
Legislators asked union members to forego the increase, but local union workers declined and state union leaders would not allow the local union to reopen contract negotiations.
All other department heads, legislators and some other positions will not receive raises in 2012. The only exception is Sheriff Timothy S. Whitcomb, whose salary was previously set for his term of office.
Proposed tax rates for next year, per $1,000 of assessed valuation, include: City of Olean, $12.56, up 2.52 percent; City of Salamanca, $66.49, up 4.16 percent; towns of Allegany, $12.55, up 2.48 percent; Ellicottville, $12.55, up 2.48 percent; Hinsdale, $12.55, up 2.48 percent; Little Valley, $17.94, up 2.48 percent; Persia, $16.52, up 2.48 percent; Randolph, $13.95, up 4.76 percent; Yorkshire, $69.76, up 8.18 percent.
Updated: November 22, 2011 10:38 PM By PAUL LAROCCO email@example.com
The Suffolk County Legislature Tuesday cleared the way for a $12 million police tax hike and avoided — for now — all but 88 of the 710 layoffs that County Executive Steve Levy had proposed.
By a 15-3 vote, lawmakers overrode the largest of Levy’s vetoes to their 2012 budget amendments. That cemented the police tax increase, averaging $27 per household for the five western towns, the use…
California’s Governor this summer requested the authority to slash Medicaid payments to providers by 10 percent in order to save $623 million this year and next to shore up its dismal finances. Cindy Mann, the director of the federal Center for Medicaid and State Operations, said Thursday that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has partially approved the request while rejecting cuts that would affect beneficiaries’ access to care. The administration on Thursday approved hundreds of millions of dollars of cuts to California’s Medicaid program…
And why is this relevent here you ask? Because NY and covers fewer people yet spends way more (and isn’t in much better economic shape overall than they are). NY’s Medicaid program is so lavish, so far beyond any federal minimum requirements, that major reforms could be had without any intervention. It could be argued that NY has as of late taken some baby steps but the question is when will they get serious and take the major steps that are desperately needed !
For the second time in four months, the Obama administration has denied a state the right to make commonsense changes to its Medicaid program–again highlighting the need for structural reform using block grants.
Medicaid is a joint federal-state program that provides health insurance to low-income, low-resource Americans. The Federal Government pays between 50-73% of the costs for Medicaid, but in exchange the Feds make all major decisions. States are left to function as the bureaucratic arm of the Federal Government. When a state decides to make even the smallest of changes, it must go beg Washington for permission. Otherwise, all Medicaid funding is lost.
In July, Illinois’ request to make reasonable changes to their Medicaid program was rejected. Illinois applied for a waiver to require proof of residency and income verification; seemingly a small ask for a means-tested health care program funded by taxpayers. These changes would reduce both Illinois and federal costs and root out the widespread abuse of Medicaid in Illinois. The Obama administration blocked the reforms.
Last week, Indiana’s application to extend its Healthy Indiana program was denied. Healthy Indiana expanded Medicaid eligibility to a previously uninsured group and did not cost federal taxpayers a penny. Self-financing was a condition of Indiana’s initial approval in 2007. They were blocked from continuing their program. Whether Indiana should continue the Healthy Indiana program is a decision for Indiana residents, not the Obama administration.
When the President’s health care law is fully operational in 2014, an estimated 16-20 million Americans will join the Medicaid rolls making state freedom even more important. Medicaid is already the largest portion of states’ budgets accounting for 22% of all expenditures. Just yesterday the Supreme Court announced that it would hear oral arguments in March on whether the Medicaid expansion in 2014, and all the strings attached, is unconstitutional.
These decisions should be made by states to match the unique needs and desire of their residents, not someone in far-away Washington. Block grants eliminate these kinds of bureaucratic nightmares, incentivize cost-saving and are a proven way to save money and serve the neediest among us.
NYSAC Nov 15, 2011
Reforming the way we finance Medicaid will lead to taxpayer accountability
WSJ 10/12/11: N.Y. Medicaid Rolls Reach 5 Million
Chautauqua County Executive’s Monday Morning Memo Nov 14, 2011
A number of pundits have criticized me for calling for change in the State’s Medicaid program and putting pressure on Albany leaders to do so since we at the County level must deliver their services and pay almost $600,000 per week for the privilege of doing the State’s work.
Well this past week, the Medicaid Director for the State of New York, Jason Helgerson, appeared on Thursday Morning Roundtable on WCNY-FM. The Editorial Board of the Post-Standard newspaper in Syracuse published the facts in “Consider this: Medicaid by the numbers” presented by the Director of this State program online at www.syracuse.com on November 4, 2011.
Some times the statistics of complicated State or Federal programs can be confusing, but I cannot imagine how the facts could be made any clearer than these:
- Number of New York State Residents receiving Medicaid Assistance: 5 million
- Current per capita Medicaid spending in New York: Twice the national average
- How much more New York spends for Medicaid than California per year: $10 billion
- How many Medicaid clients New York has, compared with California: Half as many
- Rank of New York among the states in overall health quality: 21
- Rank of New York among the states in avoidable hospital use and costs: 50th
- Share of the state Medicaid bill that goes toward long-term care: More than 50 percent
- Yearly Medicaid growth rate if costs are not contained: 13 percent.
With the top Administrator of the State’s Medicaid program admitting in graphic terms that the program is failing miserably, you would think that State leaders would be demanding massive restructuring and elimination of failed programs that enslave people to poverty instead of helping them climb out of these terrible conditions. Sadly, that is not the case in Albany.
Instead, this past week notices were sent to everyone who delivers Medicaid services for the State that they were retroactively cutting their payments to providers by 2% from April 1, 2011 through the end of December 2013! No change to the program, no improvement in the failures, just telling the hospitals, doctors, and every health care provider in the State including the County Department of Health, Mental Hygiene Department, CARTS, and yes the County Home, that we must keep doing all their work in the exact same way they mandate, but they are going to cut their payments to us by 2%. Why? To balance their budget of course! So they are intending to drive more hospitals into financial ruin, drive more doctors out of our State, reduce the access we all have to quality medical care just so our State Leaders do not have to reform their pet programs that take care of their special interest groups. Is that the answer to the program that spends two times the national average, and will grow at 13% (over $7 billion a year) and ranks at the bottom for service?
If anyone wondered why I have been so vocal in my objections to the way Albany has been treating the taxpayers of our County, the Governor’s top Director just explained why. If you think this will not affect you, just call your local hospital and ask for the Chief Administrator, or any of the Board members, or call your own physician’s office and ask them if they are expanding or contracting their services. I can assure you that the vast majority are contracting, or trying to find a way out of NYS because of Albany. When they cut back and worse follow a long line of medical professionals out of our State, along with them goes your ability to get medical help when you need it.
So how long will the taxpayers of New York State allow themselves to be victims of this broken Medicaid system?
Sign up for the Memo by visiting Chautauqua County’s website at http://www.co.chautauqua.ny.us/
Office of the Chautauqua County Executive Greg Edwards
Gerace Office Building, 3 North Erie St., Mayville, NY 14757
(716) 753-4211 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting (716) 753-4211 end_of_the_skype_highlighting Fax: (716) 753-4756 EdwardsG@co.chautauqua.ny.us
Douglas: Essex County layoffs a real possibility
Broome legislature alters occupancy tax method
Ontario County budget OK’d
Oneida County budget passes
WESTERN NEW YORK
Niagara County budget cuts nine workers, raises taxes 3.62 percent
Where’s the relief?
CENTRAL NEW YORK
Yates approves $39M budget for next year
Fulton County tentative budget has 15% hike
CENTRAL NEW YORK
Proposed 2012 Madison County budget sees rise in tax levy and rate
WESTERN NEW YORK
Backlash from Rockland budget expected at hearing
WESTERN NEW YORK
Chautauqua County Home?Disputes Ongoing
So, here’s a non-surprise: The financial outlook for New York’s state government has deteriorated in the past few months, according to the Mid-Year Financial Plan Updatefrom the Division of the Budget (DOB).The update says the general fund budget gap for next year has grown by nearly $900 million, to $3.3 billion from the previous projection of $2.4 billion. In addition, a $350 million shortfall is developing in the budget for the current year, which ends next March 31. To the extent that hole is not filled with recurring savings, it will add to next year’s gap.(more…)
capitalbusinessblog Written by Sonia Lindell on November 10, 2011 – 5:47 am
Tom Precious of the Buffalo News writes:
“Artificial deadlines come and go all the time at the state Capitol. But Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, in his first year in office, is breaking a longstanding statute that sets clear deadlines for reporting on the condition of the state’s finances.
The deadline for the closely watched, six-month report on the state budget’s condition came and went Oct. 31 without the governor’s office releasing any numbers. The deadline has been met many times over the years by governors facing far more fiscally turbulent waters.
But Cuomo, while raising the red flag warnings higher ever few days about the state government’s finances, says the mid-year financial report — used by everyone from budget crafters in the Legislature to Wall Street ratings agencies — will come when he is confident the numbers are less squishy.”
To read more click here.
The coming 2012-13 fiscal year deficit could take a bigger hit due to declining revenues and the rough economic terrain here in the U.S. and across the globe, Comptroller Tom DiNapoli warned in a report issued today. While DiNapoli’s office believes any current year leak could be easily plugged, out-year gaps are expected to increase
Governor Cuomo is still trying to sell New Yorkers on the two-percent property tax cap that was passed months ago. But Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney stil isn’t buying it. Mahoney says local governments are going to need mandate relief for the cap to work.
What a difference a year makes. That seems to be the message from Unshackle Upstate, a Rochester-based business group that’s spent the last five years lobbying for state-level reforms including a limit on local property tax increases, a more friendly business climate and reduced spending. Now the group has released a “midterm” report assess […]
New York is at the top of the debt list in the latest U.S. Census data on state and local government finances.
As of 2009, New York’s state and local long-term indebtedness came to $15,202 per-capita, more than any state and 74 percent above the national average. In 2008, New York’s per-capita state and local debt load was $13,804 and ranked third, trailing only Alaska and Massachusetts.
Comparatively speaking, state and local debt in New York wasn’t much lighter when measured as a share of income, coming to $326 per $1,000 — 45 percent above average and narrowly trailing only Alaska. In the debt per $1,000 category, the Empire State’s #3 ranking was unchanged.
Tables based on the newly released 2009 Census data on state and local government finances have been updated at the Empire Center’s Data Bank
Thursday, November 10, 2011 – The property tax cap is in many ways more symbolic than anything as communities can override it. However, it sets a marker…a line in the sand…and Governor Cuomo is calling the cap a “wake up call” for local government.
In essence he is saying “doctor, heal thyself.”
While local governments do need to change, the cap provides little real incentive to restructure local government. It will not reduce the blubbery network of school districts or 10,000plus taxing jurisdictions.
The state must still enact mandate relief and changes to things like the pension system as these also drive local taxes up.
Albany need not look far to see why structural changes (see Province of Ontario) are needed…..The Governor should take the Legislature to nearby Green Island where the Village of Green Island and the Town of Green Island sit happily with concurrent boundaries and two separate governments doing the same thing.
This Governor has made a start, but needs to use his popularity to produce structural changes in local government. NCPR News – Cuomo calls 2% tax cap a “wake up call” for local governments
After ten days of carefully reviewing the County Legislature’s approved budget, this morning I submitted my budget message to the Chautauqua County Legislature.
Despite the fact that I think the budget passed by the Legislature is a mockery of our fiscal management policy by failing to address problems, over inflating revenue, under projecting expenses, refusing to pay past due obligations, and eliminating the funds held for unanticipated fiscal emergencies, I will not be implementing any line item vetoes to the Legislature’s Budget because the Legislature passed this budget overwhelmingly and refused to consider the resolution to exceed the cap imposed by Albany.
The Legislature’s decisions were best summarized by Legislator Barmore, who said, “There’s absolutely no way that we could get under this tax cap without a bunch of smoke and mirrors… Basically, we’ve performed a major sleight of hand, but we have come in under the tax cap – which to some legislators was the most important thing to accomplish no matter how it happened. I am glad we came in under the tax cap. But I cannot support this budget as it’s amended because I think it’s totally irresponsible.”
I agree with Legislator Barmore, however, since the budget is balanced, but based on unrealistic projections of expenses or revenues, and sets up the taxpayers of Chautauqua County for a property tax increase of over 20% in 2013 to cover the $14 million deficit created, I will be expecting the Legislature to support me in passing resolutions calling for Albany to:
1. Pay their own bills for the costs of Medicaid. It is their program not ours.
2. Pass a State Law making it illegal for any State Legislation to be approved ever again that sends Counties the cost for a State program.
3. Pass a State Law ending the requirement for counties to beg their State leaders for a local sales tax rate of more than 7%.
4. If the State representatives do not implement these changes then we will end our payment to Albany for their Medicaid program in the amount of $600,000.00 every Tuesday, until these changes are made.
While I do not agree with the Legislature’s budget, which I believe will do more harm than good to Chautauqua County in the long run; I look forward to the Legislature’s unanimous support of the initiatives necessary to correct the problems.
To read my full budget message to the Legislature click here.
Chautauqua County Under Tax Cap by $5,370
Budget Passes Legislature, but with the Executive’s proposed budget having already made significant cuts to virtually every local service and area of local control, including personnel cuts, yet still millions over the cap, the question is how did the legislature do it? (Note that at least part of the answer can be found in that this was an election year for county legislators)
As for actual spending cuts, the most significant change to the executive’s budget was the removal of $500k IGT funding for the CSEA run county home. The executive had left the funding in the budget, however he is pushing for privatization of the home and therefore the ability to recoup losses at the conclusion of what is expected to be approximately an 18 month process. The home has lost money over recent years costing the county tax payer millions, however there is a fund balance at present due to a recent influx of federal revenue and the legislature determined that get can them through the next 12 months. With no concessions, personnel cuts, or otherwise coming from the home, the legislature ultimately removed the IGT funding.
This cut however was a wash once you factor in their actions with regard to the sheriff’s budget. The executive had proposed a $1.25 million in spending cuts but the legislature restored $500k of it.
As for other proposed cuts, all but one failed. The minority leadership had proposed a $150k to the County airport but it was determined that the money would get spent regardless, in this case due to a federal mandate, and as such would only add to next years deficit. Additional cuts to public works beyond those by the executive went nowhere as it was determined this would result in both a failure to provide adequate essential services and adequate maintenance. In the latter case it was further determined that such action would actually cost the countymore money down the road.
Another proposal pushed by the minority was to reduce compensation to legislators who at present as part time officials receive $9000/year plus a stipend for the chairman and sub-committee chairs. Many felt that the legislature already lead by example having eliminated health insurance a few years back, which was not only the largest legislative expense, but effectively cut their compensation in half. Another factor is the sense that the legislature is already operating bare bones with few staff and legislators handling their own constituent services, acting as their own secretaries, and so on. To make the matter more contentious most of those pushing the reduced compensation as those doing the least amount of work. This fact is born out by a review of state reporting requirement documentation and attendance records. Add to this the anticipation that a ballot proposal to reduce the number of legislators to 19 would pass (update – it did) and you will have the remaining 19 doing more work for the same pay.
As for the one related measure that passed, it was to cut the legislature clerk position in half saving a total of $20,000. For the past couple months the legislature had filled the position temporarily at half time, however the interim clerk has stated that she is putting in more hours than she is being compensated for. That said, and as previously stated that the legislature is realistically already operating bare bones, several members were skeptical that this cut will even be manageable.
So this bring us back to the original question, how did they meet the cap? Well it certainly wasn’t through spending cuts and here’s a few examples of that. For starters, despite repeated warnings against it by the testimony of the finance director, the legislature saw fit to over estimate revenues such as sales tax to tune of $400k. In another move the body voted to use an additional $400k of its post-retirement fund balance to drive down the 2012 tax levy. Additionally, the legislature voted to use a $300k contingency fund, despite the fact that the DSS director testified that they are already slated to end the year over budget as a result of state mandated delivery of services they cannot control. This not only will add to a projected deficit next year, but if the state mandates were again to force them over budget, then the problem will become two fold.
Though all the various changes saw different degrees of support and opposition throughout the night, as well as varying degrees of political posturing, the budget in the end was passed in a 20 to 5 vote (enough to override any veto by the executive).
“We’ve met our goal and I guess our goal was that no matter what we do, to get under the tax cap which basically was forced on us by the state of New York,” Majority Leader Barmore, R-Gerry said at the end of the night, prior to the budget vote. “There’s absolutely no way that we could get under this tax cap without a bunch of smoke and mirrors and some painful cuts to public safety and to the maintenance of county facilities.” Barmore continued on to say that some of the cuts made in the budget will only cost the county more in the long run, as the cuts defer work which should be done in 2012.
“We’ve stolen from all our surplus funds,” Barmore said. “We’ve one-time funded most of the changes in tonight’s budget. We’ll push probably $10 million to $13 million in additional deficits into next year that we will have to worry about at that time. Basically, we’ve performed a major sleight of hand, but we have come in under the tax cap – which to some legislators was the most important thing to accomplish no matter how it happened. I’m glad we came in under the tax cap. But I cannot support this budget as it’s amended because I think it’s totally irresponsible.”
Legislator Jerry Park, R-Forestville at one point had interjected, “In my rough calculations what this budget has done is push our deficit $15.5 million for next year to start off with at this point and that is just a ball park figure that I’ve been putting together here. So, I mean, what we’ve done this year is going to be there next year plus all the increases that is going to come down the pike. It will be a 24% increase next year.”
Under the cap, absent a vote to override, the county was only allowed to increase its tax levy by a total of $2,219,676 (yet the county will pay $7,273,000 more to the state in 2012 than it did in 2011).
The County Legislature adopted a budget that just barely meets that limit, increasing the levy by $2,214,306.
So with the portion of the county budget controlled by state mandates rising from 83% to approx now 90%, what will happen next year? With this years budget gimmicks having only exacerbated the deficit problem for next year, and state mandates still rising, will the county find the mere 10% of the budget they still control go by the wayside as well? Will the county relegate itself to near 100% Albany control as if the county is nothing more than a ward of the state?
Without mandate relief (the 3 largest factors for Chautauqua being Medicaid, Pensions, DSS/Safety net spending) that is exactly the direction they are headed, as are many, if not most, other counties!
Prior to Chautauqua County Budget vote, Tea Party and Chamber of Commerce leaders address the Legislature
October 26, 2011 Mayville, NY
Excerpt: President and CEO of the Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce and the Executive Director of the Manufacturing Association of the Southern Tier
“…Secondly, I just want to encourage you to take a position and continue to stand behind our County Executive and our position as well in terms of withholding the Medicaid payments to New York State. We continue to reach out through our business organizations throughout New York State to reinforce this message. I really think that we’re starting to get some traction. I think particularly in light of the positioning of the Governor on this issue and his opposition of the State taking over the Medicaid payment. We have to take a strong united stand on this issue and we need to take action and we need to send a message back to Albany that we can no longer shoulder the burden of these unfunded mandates.”
Excerpt: Southern Tier Tea Party Patriots Board Member
“As you may know tea, the acronym stands for Taxed Enough Already. Certainly this is the case in both New York State as well as our County. School, County, Town, Village property taxes combined, we pay some of the highest in the nation. This is something that I believe that people on both sides of the isle agree to. It directly contributes to why we are economically oppressed and living in one of the least free states in this country and I would refer you to Mercatus studies that have been done over numerous years that substantiates that.
Tonight, the tentative budget proposes an increase of $7.6 million dollars over the 2011 budget. A 12.67% property tax increase. We understand that it is predominately driven by State mandate, increases resulting in 90% or thereabouts of our budget being dictated by Albany. So the big question is what can be done to reduce this tax hike, get us close to the tax cap and do so while dealing responsibly with an uncertain future and a pending deficit again next year?.
First, we fully support privatizing the County Home. As to the IGT funding, the position taken was, if spending offsets, if cuts, if contracts concessions or some combination thereof can not be found to justify the inclusion of the IGT funding in the budget in whatever amount, that it should be removed.
Next, we strongly oppose any suggested borrowing proposals to decrease the budget. Depleting fund balances while increasing debt is bad fiscal policy. It is in no way, cuts, and it jeopardizes our future outlook, it jeopardizes our future ability to deal with future deficits and it could even jeopardize our bond rating.
The cost of the public work force is unsustainable. Combined wages and benefits are higher than the private sector counterparts that have to pay for them. It is our position that the County Legislature does what is necessary preferably through contract negotiations, and layoffs or a combination of both, to achieve a net zero increase in the cost of the County workforce.
The Sheriff’s Dept budget…. So, it was the groups position that the $1.2 million in cuts should stay and that the $500,000 suggested to be restored, is not restored.
Following discussions on the County airports… But at least with respect to the Dunkirk airport, it should be privatized.
Regarding the bed tax and the occupancy tax services, it was discovered at looking at last years budget that the occupancy tax services of watershed and tourism were not fully funded in 2011. This resulted in a budget gap of approximately $70,000 combined between the two and it is our position that the occupancy tax services should be fully funded with the revenues as the program was designed. As you know, we have a grant program, handout, give away, whatever you want to call it, it doesn’t matter what you call it, Before any property taxes go to fund services that a revenue stream was designed to fund, there should be no gap there. Those services should be fully funded and if that means that you scale back that grant program, well then that is the right thing to do.
Finally, we request that the Legislature endorse the Medicaid boycott. We have all heard Executive Edwards call to action and we suggest that you both endorse this boycott and that you all sign the petition that not only our group is circulating but others as well. I would like to point out to you that I only have a portion of them. I have a stack of 200 signatures right here in my hand and there is a lot of public support for this, there are a lot more signatures out there that we haven’t even rounded up yet and this is an ongoing effort. On a personal note on the signatures I have obtained myself, I have yet to have one person, not one, turn me down when I ask them to sign this thing.
Lastly, we support the state bills that have now been introduced that are in conjunction with this petition. They kind of go hand in hand. We’re pushing in one direction for reform and we’re starting to see movement in another direction with it and we might actually get them. But you know, we need a strong County voice here, we need a strong County voice in every County across this State and that means, when it comes to County versus State issues and not something within the County to which your partisan divide is fine. You want to have differences of opinion on how to handle a local issue that is great, that is fine, that is what you should be doing. But, when it comes to you being our firewall between us and the State, you need often to come together as one voice and stand up to the State. So with respect to the sister bills that have been introduced in the State Senate and State Assembly, that is 5889 in the Senate and 8644 in the Assembly in regards to the State takeover of Medicaid, we need that to happen and we would like to see this body come together with a show of support of that legislation with a resolution that you send to our Assembly people and our Senators and our Governor.”
When I submitted my Tentative Budget to the County Legislature on September 28, 2011, I knew that it was going to be a challenging process for the Legislature. I knew this to be true because I had been working with the financial matters impacting our 2012 Budget for over 18 months. As part of the process, my Department Leaders had presented over 150 pages of analysis in the form of our Zero Based Budget calculations to the Legislature, which broke down each and every program or service offered by Chautauqua County and stated whether it was mandated by Albany or non-mandated. These details also included the amount of local tax dollars versus the State and Federal dollars used to deliver the service.
“…new dollars are being demanded by Albany in the amount of approximately $6 Million more than last year, a property tax increase is inevitable”
Virtually all the other changes resulting in the approximate $3 Million reduction are transfers from our fund balances (much like your savings accounts) into the budget to pay ongoing expenses. This means that these changes are not cuts to our spending, but will have to be paid another day and are not going away. These changes, as presented by the Legislature, will result in a direct increase to the projected deficit for 2013 to approximately $13 million, an estimated 23% property tax increase.
“These facts are why I am continuing to call on our Albany elected officials to deal with what causes these property tax increases. These property taxes were caused in large part by Albany solving their fiscal crisis by pushing their expenses on local counties, where we must then collect taxes for them to allow Albany to expand their programs at our property taxpayers’ expense”
The known and proven solutions are clear and they call for changes in Albany:
1. Albany must pay its own bill for Medicaid: This would cut approximately $30 Million from our property taxes and would result in an approximate reduction of 48% in County property taxes.
2. Albany must pass a law outlawing unfunded mandates: This would prevent the State officials from sending counties their expenses in the future.
3. Albany must give local County leaders the control of their own Sales Tax Rates: Albany gets every cent of the first 4% of the “local sales tax,” if they think 8% is too high, cut their portion not the other portion from which Chautauqua County already gives almost half of every dollar collected to the Towns, Villages, and Cities in our County.
Chautauqua Co Exec Edwards Says Albany Is To Blame For Tax Increase
September 29, 2011 By Nicholas L. Dean (firstname.lastname@example.org) , The Post-Journal
MAYVILLE – The county executive does not set the county’s property tax rate, nor does the legislature, County Executive Greg Edwards told lawmakers Wednesday.
It’s Albany that is the reason for the proposed 12 percent tax hike in 2012.
In presenting his budget to the County Legislature on Wednesday, Edwards highlighted exactly how much of the county’s spending is mandated by the state.
Compounding the county’s situation, Edwards said, is the state’s 2 percent tax cap and the fact that the county wasn’t allowed to set its own tax rate this year.
During the course of his 30-minute presentation, Edwards presented the details of next year’s $18 million shortfall and the ways in which he’s proposing to close it – layoffs, cuts to services and use of the county’s fund balance.
“My job, under the terms of the financial management policy, was to deliver a fiscally based, balanced budget,” Edwards said. “I did. It stinks. The last thing I want to do is start cutting services. The last thing I want to do is raise property taxes. The last thing I want to do is spend the balance of our fund balance, just to try and hold pat.”
Of the total 2012 budget, Edwards said a total of 73 percent is mandated, a total of 17 percent is required and a total of 10 percent is non-mandated.
The tentative 2012 budget totals $6,686,124,537, an 11 percent increase from the adopted 2011 budget of $6,678,673,573.
In the proposal is a property tax increase of $1.13 on every dollar of assessed valuation. If passed, that would take the county’s property tax rate from $8.90 per thousand dollars of assessed valuation to $10.03 – a 12.67 percent increase.
The total levy is proposed to increase by $7,603,714 to a total of $67,036,845 in 2012.
Under the 2 percent tax cap, the county is only allowed to increase the levy a total of $2,219,676 – putting the proposal a total of $5,384,038 over the allowable increase.
According to Edwards, an increase of $1.13 would mean an additional $85.29 in county property taxes on a home valued at $75,000 and an additional $56.86 in county property taxes on a home valued at $50,000.
“Albany leaders control 90 percent of all the dollars spent in Chautauqua County by Chautauqua County operations,” Edwards said. “So when they continually demand more, that means our cost goes up and our property taxes go up.”
Also during his presentation, Edwards pointed out that the county’s property tax rate was $9.98 in 2005 – and so an increase to $10.03 may be an increase of $1.13 from 2011, but it’s a 5-cent increase from the county’s 2005 rate. He also provided details of the county’s estimated $9 million deficit for 2013.
Legislature Chairman Fred Croscut, R-Sherman, called the county executive’s presentation “a sobering message.”
“I’ve never sat and listened to a county executive’s budget before with such a sobering message,” Croscut said. “And I think it gets the point across that we have to act as a body here during the next couple weeks to do what’s right for the taxpayers of this county. But I think when it’s all said and done it’s going to be very, very difficult as you can see this evening to stay below the tax cap.”
Also on the agenda at Wednesday’s meeting was a local law proposed by Croscut to override the state’s 2 percent tax cap. The local law was tabled by Republican caucus leaders, never reaching the floor for discussion. Croscut said that proposal will return next month for discussion and vote.
If the legislature does not vote to override the tax cap, Croscut said legislators will have to find another $5 million in cuts.
“There’s enough hurt in that budget right now,” Croscut said, adding that trying to cut that amount out of local share dollars would be “virtually impossible.”
With the budget having gone online Monday afternoon, individuals were able to address various aspects of the proposal in detail at Wednesday’s meeting – such as Todd Tranum, president and CEO of the Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce. Prior to the meeting, CSEA workers gathered with signs along the sidewalk of the Gerace Office Building. Several individuals spoke out during the meeting not only about the proposed employee cuts, but also about the possible privatization of the County Home.
Article PDFs: 2012 Tentative Budget Presentation
Tell New York State ‘Enough Is Enough’
October 2, 2011 The Post-Journal Editorial
Unionized county workers were in the wrong place when they mounted an informational picket Wednesday evening in Mayville to protest job cuts and the sale of the county nursing home as Chautauqua County Executive Gregory Edwards delivered his 2012 budget proposal to the legislature.
The Civil Service Employees Association members need to take their pickets to the site of the biggest engines that drive the cost of local government ever upward: Albany.
So, too, should the forces that will be gathered to support county Sheriff Joseph Gerace as he, quite understandably, lobbies to have the 5.4 percent cut to his department restored.
As the proposed county budget now stands, the property tax bills that will be sent out in January will be 22 percent higher than the bills property owners in Chautauqua County received just last year – January 2010.
Yes, that’s worthy of a collective gasp.
This year, Edwards released his entire budget document to the public promptly. There are cuts throughout. The snowmobile patrol is gone. The Youth Bureau is cut nearly in half. Planning and Development is down 24 percent. Board of Elections and the Veterans Service are down. Pavement marking, snow removal, road and bridge maintenance, core public health, parks, information technology services – all down, down, down.
We note, too, the money-losing county airports and county home are still carried on the books. The local share of Medicaid is up $3.4 million, or 11.8 percent. The county executive’s budget is up 0.7 percent; the legislature’s is up 0.4 percent.
It will be interesting to see what the County Legislature, which holds the power to impose the property tax levy, does with this budget proposal over the next few weeks.
As we have noted several times, when the governor and state legislators enacted a law this spring limiting local property tax increases to 2 percent a year, they cynically and deliberately neglected to cede to county governments the ability and authority to control spending on expensive state programs and local personnel costs to meet that cap.
That principally is why add our voice to those calling on the county to stop making Medicaid payments to the state. The county Chamber of Commerce at least wants to start talking about it.
When he presented his budget to the legislature, Edwards agreed, saying he wants to stop payments to get the state to put an end to unfunded mandates – although he tips his hand in also demanding the county be allowed to increase the sales tax, which is the opposite direction taxes should be going.
In stating his case for withholding Medicaid payments, Edwards said, “As long as they can shovel the problem off to taxpayers in Chautauqua County … they will keep doing it, just like they’ve done to every other county across New York state. It won’t be until we say, ‘Enough. No more. It’s your responsibility. If you want the program, you pay for it.”’
We believe it is time to go a step beyond withholding the money.
The legislature should refuse to impose a property tax levy big enough to raise the money to even make those payments.
‘Stop The Insanity’
County Executive Interested In Not Sending Medicaid Payment To State
September 29, 2011 By Nicholas L. Dean (email@example.com) , The Post-Journal
MAYVILLE – Something has to change.
County Executive Greg Edwards spoke Wednesday of how one definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result.
Counties across the state continue to pay Albany more and more each year, he said, cutting the local services they provide while always expecting some relief.
“Stop the insanity,” Edwards said at one point during his budget presentation Wednesday.
The phrase became a sort of mantra for the county executive.
“I know counties across the state that have gone beyond frustration and now they’re willing to consider action,” Edwards said.
One county, he continued, intends to stop providing services as early as April when their expenses reach the 2 percent tax cap limit imposed by the state. Edwards has another idea. He’s on board with the county Chamber of Commerce and wants to begin discussing the possibility of not sending the state its weekly Medicaid payment in 2012.
“We stop that, we don’t send another penny unless they allow us to set our sales tax where it ought to be and they end the unfunded mandates that are driving up our property tax rate,” Edwards said. “If they’re willing to be reasonable, I’m willing to be reasonable.
“I asked the legislators to join me in that tonight,” Edwards continued. “I ask all the people, all the residents of Chautauqua County, and every other county in New York state to join us because it’s not until we call this question, not until we make it our state elected officials’ problems that we can address it.
“As long as they can shovel the problem off to taxpayers in Chautauqua County under the guise that it is Chautauqua County,” he said, “they will keep doing it, just like they’ve done to every other county across New York state. It won’t be until we say, ‘Enough. No more. It’s your responsibility. If you want the program, you pay for it.’ So that’s what I asked the legislature to consider tonight.”
Tea Party Leader Addresses Legislature
August 31, 2011 By Nicholas L. Dean (firstname.lastname@example.org) , The Post-Journal
MAYVILLE – The leader of the local tea party chapter addressed the County Legislature recently about the 2012 budget deficit.
Mel McGinnis, president of the Southern Tier Tea Party Patriots, told legislators of his group’s concern with county wages – advocating for a freeze which tea party members believe would save at least $2 million locally.
“We would ask that the county consider that proposal so as to save taxpayers on that matter,” McGinnis said. “As I understand it, negotiations are going on right now and we would encourage that no increase be given so that not only do the taxpayers save, but all employees may have their jobs saved.”
In May, the group released a list of several proposals at a press conference event, including the proposal to immediately freeze county wages…
Also at the recent legislature meeting, McGinnis pointed to officials in Steuben County, whom he said had recently made a decision to have the state pick up their entire Medicaid tab.
“They are frustrated over there with regard to these unfunded state mandates and, with this unfunded state mandate, of course, there is no mandate reform included,” McGinnis said. “I would say that if the legislature here did something like that, the tea party would really be behind that because they feel the impact that the property taxes having on our citizens here and are very concerned in regards to that issue.”
In closing, McGinnis thanked legislator Tami Downey, R-Kiantone, for having met with tea party members and for having helped them to understand a little better how the state and county operate.
McGinnis said. “I really see that we basically are a fiefdom of the state and we need to get ourselves loose from that. I don’t know how we’re going to do it, but I think the tea party across the state may be coalescing so that the county is given more power and the state from Albany is given much less power.
10/11/2011 1:58:32 PM
By Dave Rowley, News Director
Chautauqua County Executive Greg Edwards says his proposal to have the County Legislature consider with-holding Medicaid payments from the state starting in January is picking up traction across the state. He tells WDOE News more county leaders across the state are talking about it…
Click above to listen
10/12/2011 7:48:01 AM
By Dave Rowley, News Director
At least one Democrat in the County Legislature supports County Executive Greg Edwards’ proposal to stop making the Medicaid payments to the State in January. County Legislator John Gullo says he supports the idea of the protest…
Click above to Listen
Call to action by County Executive Edwards (-listen here-starts @ minute 22:36)
October 10, 2011 Written by: Todd Tranum, Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce
County Executive Greg Edward is ready and willing to take a bold step to send the message to Albany that we will no longer foot the bill for Medicaid. Greg Edwards needs the support of the County legislature, all of the elected leaders of our municipal governments, organized labor, all home owners and property tax payers along with the business community of Chautauqua County to send the message to Albany that we can no longer carry the burden of paying this unfunded mandate.
The Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce and the Manufacturers Association of the Southern Tier supports County Executive Greg Edwards in this effort. In his recent budget presentation and again in the weekly Monday Morning Memo from October 3, 2011, the County Executive has ‘called upon the Legislature to join him in not sending one more penny of the approximately $600,000 per week that goes to pay for Medicaid unless; The State immediately takes back the unfunded cost of Medicaid from counties; The State passes a law to prevent itself from ever again sending an uncovered program bill for services they demand the County provide; and authorizes counties to make the determination what the right amount of sales tax is for local residents.
Here is why we must take this stand. The cost burden of Medicaid is falling directly on our County property tax bills. This is a State mandated program over which the County has no control in terms of defining the level of benefits and how those benefits are administered. As this burden gets pushed onto an already high property tax burden our County becomes less cost competitive than other regions. High property taxes undermine economic development and deter private investment. Less private investment means fewer jobs. Fewer jobs mean fewer people investing in their homes and communities. We can no longer allow our economic future to be compromised by unfunded mandates such as Medicaid.
We are a County with great opportunity. We have a quality of life in Chautauqua County that people who live in other regions of the United States or the world for that matter, dream about. We have great employers, a diverse base of businesses and agriculture, abundant natural resources and most importantly great people. Let’s take a stand and support County Executive Greg Edwards in an effort to preserve these assets and position our County for future growth and prosperity.
If you agree, please call, write, and email your County Legislators and our state elected officials about this issue. We also ask that you show up in person during the County Legislature’s budget hearings October 26th and make your voice heard. Our lawmakers at all levels must get this message: “Don’t send the check!”
October 02, 2011 Written by: Todd Tranum, Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce
The County Budget Crisis is not something that fell into our lap in the past few months. To the credit of County Executive Edwards, with up front clarity he forewarned county residents of the mounting problems we would face with his budget presentation for the 2011 fiscal year. This past week County Executive Edwards again clearly laid out the reality that faces County Government in 2012.
In 1998, then-County Executive Mark Thomas recognized the growing challenge of managing mandated Medicaid costs and advocated for reform. In 1998 the yearly Medicaid burden placed on our County was approximately $14 million. This year, total Medicaid payments from Chautauqua County to New York State will exceed $28 million. Imagine what the County could do with $14 million dollars to help maintain vital services for the taxpayers of our County. To get through this current budget year there must be serious cuts in services and immediate and significant changes in Albany.
We all need to come to terms with the fact that this budget crisis and the enormous property tax burden we currently face is not the product of one person, one administration or one political party. We collectively are the problem. ‘We’ includes every taxpayer in Chautauqua County, every business owner and every elected official. We let the situation get out of hand, we have not in any meaningful way, taken on the challenging tasks of changing what we can control, and we have allowed Albany to force mandates upon us.
Instead of consolidating school districts and municipal governments, we get caught up in the possibility that we have something to lose. The reality is that we are losing each day that we continue to pay taxes to so many entities.
We look to our elected officials to lead the charge to compel our local governments and schools to share services and consolidate in order to reduce the multiple taxing layers within the County. We encourage our County leaders to work out new agreements with local municipalities related to sales tax sharing to compensate the County for costs absorbed that were at one time expenses of the municipal governments.
Statement – September 30, 2011“…On the issue of Medicaid, Tranum said the Chamber and the Manufacturers Association stand “shoulder to shoulder” with the county leaders on the idea of not sending the state its weekly check.“Think of what we could be doing with that money for the people of Chautauqua County and the taxpayers of Chautauqua County,” Tranum said. “It’s time we take a stand. We’re here as a business community to support you in that stand. But it’s time. We’ve got to stand up and make our case.”
Chautauqua County Legislator Borrello On Overriding The Tax Cap
Chautauqua County Tax Cap Override Likely
August 21, 2011 By Nicholas L. Dean (email@example.com) , The Post-Journal
“If there was any other option, we’d take it,” said County Executive Greg Edwards on Friday.
For Chautauqua County, the tax cap’s 2 percent limit equals an increase of $1,188,663. What needs to be paid to the state over 2011′s costs, however, totals six times that.
According to figures provided by legislator John Runkle, R-Stockton, the county will pay $7,273,000 more to the state in 2012 than it did in 2011. Individually that’s a $2,773,000 increase in Medicaid, a $2 million increase in the county’s retirement contribution and a $2.5 million increase for social services and health programs.
“In short,” Runkle told The Post-Journal, “I do believe that the tax cap is a very good idea. Unfortunately, there were no provisions set forth in the state legislation to allow for local mandate relief thereby making it very difficult, if not impossible, for local municipalities to meet the tax cap requirement. The math just does not work.”
County Executive Edwards called it “extortion” in conversation Friday.
Every year, Albany demands more money, Edwards said. This year, the bill was $6 million more than what county officials were expecting.
“It’s extortion because we have no capacity to say no,” Edwards said. “Then, to make it look like they’re doing something important, they send this artificial cap obligation to us saying that we cannot raise taxes more than $1.188 million…
The estimated total state tax levy in 2011 for counties was $4.5 billion, which limits growth in 2012 to $90 million under the 2 percent tax cap. State increases to counties, however, will total $279 million more in 2012 .
In comment to The Post-Journal, Runkle stressed that it is not his intent to “get into the blame game.” However, he said, “it seems very strange that our state representatives would support a 2 percent state tax cap without any associated mandate relief.”
“Enacting this 2 percent tax cap while at the same time increasing state mandated county budget costs by 12 percent makes absolutely no sense to me,” Runkle said. “In this case, we are being told to hold our budget to 2 percent while the state is increasing that same budget by 12 percent.”
Edwards said state officials further “added insult to injury” this year by refusing to carry legislation to Albany which would have increased the county’s sales tax rate. Then there’s the county’s other rising costs, which, when combined with what’s owed to Albany, add up to the county’s $18 million deficit in 2012.
“You realize very quickly that, with the 13 percent of our budget which we have control over, we could eliminate everything except for the basic security services and we wouldn’t meet the 2 percent cap,” Edwards said Friday. “That’s eliminating veterans, seniors, economic development, planning and everything we do and we couldn’t comply with this artificial cap. So I have no doubt that the legislature is going to be called on to exceed the 2 percent cap because the state’s made it an impossibility. It’s impossible without having any control over the other 87 percent of our budget. It’s beyond frustrating.”
Oct 18, 2011 @ 04:30 PM
Penn Yan, N.Y. — Yates County Legislators are considering a local law that would lay the groundwork to override the limit on real property taxes resulting from the upcoming 2012 budget.
At the legislature’s regular meeting on Oct. 11, the legislators passed a resolution setting a public hearing on the proposed law. The hearing will be held at 1 p.m. Nov. 14…
Other business at the meeting included:
• MEDICAID: Legislators unanimously approved a resolution supporting bills in the senate and assembly that would implement a multi-year state takeover of the local share of Medicaid. According to the resolution, statewide, county taxpayers pay $7.3 billion for the state’s Medicaid program. In 2012, Yates County’s Medicaid costs are expected to increase to $4.36 million, with an additional 3 percent increase each subsequent year. “Removing county taxpayers from the financing of Medicaid is the single most important thing the state legislature can do to lower county property taxes for New Yorkers,” read Dennis, who presented the resolution…
Department Asked To Prepare Budgets With No More Than 2 Percent Increase
September 5, 2011
LITTLE VALLEY – Cattaraugus County lawmakers are expecting a shortfall of nearly $5 million as they begin preparing their annual budget.
During upcoming weeks, county departments, Administrator Jack Searles and the county’s legislature will look at all programs and services in their search to find ways to reduce expenses, increase revenues and improve efficiency in light of the shortfall…
According to county officials a state property tax cap on the amount to be raised by taxes was initiated despite state mandated and contractual obligations increasing in the county.
“The projected increases in these mandates alone account for the amount allowable to be increased under the property tax cap law,” county officials report, adding they are mandated to provide Medicaid, Safety Net funding, state retirement pension contributions, community college chargebacks, child welfare, pre-kindergarten, early intervention programs, along with defense to indigents, probation programs and youth detention.
“In the case of the department of Social Services, the increase in Medicaid costs alone will exceed their allowable 2 percent by more than $100,000,” officials report.
In 2012, officials said, the county will be required to pay Medicaid costs of $18,462,750, a $537,800 increase. Other mandated services and programs are expected to have similar increases of about 2.9 percent to 4.4 percent, totaling an additional $497,500 in increases.
“At the same time as the county’s share of mandated programs increase, there have been reductions and elimination of both federal and state revenues for other programs the county provides to residents,” said officials via a press release issued Monday…
In addition, officials said, contractual obligations will result in increased costs in health insurance, workers’ compensation and collective bargaining agreements. A projected increase of about $1.9 million is expected.
County lawmakers recently decided to seek proposals to help them evaluate their two county-owned nursing homes in Olean and Machias. The Pines Healthcare and Rehabilitation Centers have had to be subsidized by the county budget. Searles said about $2.5 million was needed to help the homes in 2011, with another $3.5 million projected for next year. Although some of that may be offset, lawmakers recently voted to hire a consultant to help evaluate options for the homes’ future “public and or private ownership/operation” of the homes. Searles said firms have until the end of September to submit proposals at how to make the homes more efficient or save money when lawmakers will then vote on hiring one of the firms that have submitted proposals.
All totalled, the impact for the budget is expected to result in a $4.1 million to $5.3 million shortfall.
Lawmakers are expected to review using fund balance left from previous years to offset increases in costs and revenue reductions. The fund balance stands at $19.8 million, however, that is below the level recommended by the state Comptroller’s Office.
“These decisions need to be carefully reviewed, especially in the current tax cap environment as the funds will no longer be available for future years,” they report.
A tentative budget is expected to be released on Nov. 9.
NYSAC News: Genesee County asks for relief from mandates (pdf)
Published: Friday, November 18, 2011 By MICHAEL CIGNOLI, THE SARATOGIAN
BALLSTON SPA —The proposal to infuse additional revenue into Saratoga County’s 2012 budget by raising the sales tax rate to 8 percent has been dealt a devastating and perhaps fatal blow after representatives from both houses of the state Legislature — including officials representing Saratoga County — said they do not think the bill will be approved.
When he unveiled the county’s $320 million spending plan last week, County Administrator Spencer Hellwig said a 1 percent sales tax increase would create an additional $11 million in revenue next year if the higher sales tax went into effect in September.
Such a move would keep the county from finishing next year with a negative surplus fund balance, but would still leave the county’s reserves at a perilously low $2.1 million.
To actually raise the sales tax, Saratoga County officials need to first draft a piece of home rule legislation that would up the rate within the county lines. That hasn’t happened yet and likely won’t happen until next year. A state-level elected official then needs to sponsor the bill to bring it up for discussion in Albany and it needs to be voted on by the Assembly and Senate before going into effect.
But Senators Hugh Farley (R-Schenectady) and Roy McDonald (R-Saratoga) said it’s unlikely that the bill would be approved by the Senate, with Farley calling the bill’s chances “slim-to-none.”
It was a sentiment echoed by Assemblyman Jim Tedisco’s office.
“We don’t believe there’s any support for raising taxes on residents and local businesses,” said Adam Kramer, Tedisco’s chief of staff.
But Assembly Majority Leader Ron Canestrari (D-Cohoes) said the bill, if it gets drafted, has a fighting chance in his house.
“In general, we honor home rule requests,” said Canestrari, whose district encompasses Waterford.
Though he said he hasn’t had any formal discussions with Saratoga County officials, Canestrari said he would sponsor the bill in the Assembly if asked.
But that means little if the bill doesn’t get passed. While Canestrari noted “a handful more than 50″ pieces of home rule legislation were approved last year, he said none of them included tax raises.
“Generally, we’re opposed to raising taxes,” said Scott Reis, the spokesman for the Senate’s Republican majority. “Certainly we would take a look at the home rule request if it’s sent.”
But Hellwig said he plans to offer revised comments to the supervisors during a budget workshop scheduled for 3 p.m. today.
“At this point,” Hellwig said, “there doesn’t appear to be any support to carry the legislation in Albany.”
In a straw poll earlier this week, seven supervisors said they were against raising the sales tax; five said they would endorse it or were leaning towards endorsing it; and 11 said they were undecided.
Hellwig said supervisors must now determine whether to push ahead with the increase or if such an effort would represent “an act of futility.” Hellwig said he is leaning toward the latter, which isn’t good news for the county.
“That has now placed an $11 million hole in our budget,” Hellwig said.
Supervisors could fill that gap by privatizing the Maplewood Manor nursing home, which is expected to experience a $9.4 million shortfall next year. They could also opt to sell the county-owned landfill property in Northumberland or vote to override the state’s 2 percent property tax cap. The tentative budget did not include a property tax raise, keeping the county’s rate set at $2.155 per $1,000 of assessed value.
Overall spending in the 2012 budget was up 8 percent, but supervisors have noted that a bulk of those expenses were associated with state mandates like Medicaid payments and retirement contributions. They’ve already pared $16.5 million from initial department requests and have said any further cuts would be devastating.
But not all supervisors are ready to abandon the sales tax ship.
Charlton Supervisor Alan Grattidge, the Law and Finance Committee’s Vice Chair, noted that 52 other New York counties have received special home rule approval from the state Assembly to raise the sales tax rate. He said a sales tax raise is unfortunate, but necessary given the county’s financial condition.
“We’re just asking not to be discriminated against,” he said.
A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Dec. 1.
Both the workshop and the public hearing will take place at the Saratoga County Complex in Ballston Spa.
The Post-Star | Posted: Thursday, November 17, 2011 4:10 pm
BALLSTON SPA — Both state senators representing Saratoga County said they will not introduce legislation to allow the county to raise the sales tax rate from 7 percent to 8 percent.
Sen. Hugh Farley, R-Schenectady, said the sales tax hike from which the county had hoped to collect $11 million in the last three months of 2012 “has no chance of passing.”
“The Senate is committed to no new taxes,” he said. “It’s just something that would not happen.”
Raising the county’s portion of the sales tax from 3 percent to 4 percent, which would match the 4 percent taken by the state, requires adoption in both houses of the Legislature.
Farley admitted it’s customary for the Legislature to adopt what’s called “home-rule legislation” that comes from counties, but he said he doesn’t believe he or his colleagues would support a bill to raise taxes in the current economic climate.
Sen. Roy McDonald, R-Saratoga, is in agreement. Farley said Republican Assemblyman James Tedisco, who represents a portion of Saratoga County, is opposed to the move as well. Four other legislators represent portions of the county in the Assembly, and while any legislator could introduce such measures, they are typically offered by legislators who represent the affected municipalities.
Saratoga County officials now head back to the drawing board. Of the $11 million in new sales tax revenue anticipated by the 2012 budget, $5.5 million was to be distributed to the county’s towns, and the remaining $5.5 million would help close a budget deficit and prevent the county from ending the year with no money in reserves. The proposal spends $10.4 million from savings to balance the budget.
The proposed budget totals $320.7 million, $26 million more than the current budget. The budget total, however, includes $5.5 million in sales tax distributions to the towns – payments that would be eliminated if the sales tax rate is not increased.
The county’s 23 supervisors have a budget workshop scheduled for 3 p.m. Friday, at which they can vote on amendments to the budget. They intend to hold a public hearing Dec. 1 and pass a budget Dec. 14.
County Administrator Spencer Hellwig said officials are weighing other options to eliminate a sales tax increase, but he said no solutions have been proposed.
“This budget absolutely, positively, without questions was trimmed down as much as possible during the budget review process,” he said.
As the budget stands, the county would end 2012 $3 million in the red without the sales tax boost.
To raise that $3 million through a property tax hike – which some supervisors have said is off the table – the $49 million property tax levy would need to increase by more than 6 percent, or more than three times the 2 percent cap imposed by the state.
Even if that were to occur, there would be no savings remaining at the end of 2012. The county expects to end 2011 with about $12 million in the bank.
Hellwig said $61 million of expenses in the 2012 budget are mandates from the state that are left to the county to fund. Saratoga County officials have echoed their counterparts across New York in pointing to rising mandated costs, like the counties’ share of Medicaid and contributions to the state pension fund, as among the reasons they are facing financial difficulties.
McDonald and Farley agreed. McDonald has co-sponsored a bill the Senate is expected to take up when its session begins in January that would phase out the counties’ share of Medicaid over nine years. Currently, New York is one of only two states that require counties to foot a portion of the Medicaid bill.
McDonald, who spent 23 years on the county’s Board of Supervisors when he was Wilton’s town supervisor, said officials have a tough task ahead of them, but he said there’s room to cut spending.
“Saratoga County, in the worst economy in my lifetime, is still doing better than anybody else, and I think that’s because low taxes drive the economy,” he said. “You do the best you can, and I think the Board of Supervisors will do that.”
The county’s property tax rate of $2.16 per $1,000 of assessed value is among the lowest in New York.
Troy Record Published: Sunday, November 13, 2011
By Michael Cignoli Special to The Record
SARATOGA SPRINGS — There’s been a long-standing hypothesis among Saratoga County leaders that the county, with its
7 percent sales tax rate, has a competitive edge over neighboring counties that impose higher charges on transactions.
But is that edge — if it exists — measured in inches, feet, miles or light-years? And, more importantly, will the proposal before the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors to increase the county’s sales tax to the 8 percent charged by some neighboring counties significantly affect local business?
Supervisors and local business leaders have conflicting views on the proposal, which was a highlight of the county’s $320 million tentative 2012 budget unveiled Wednesday.
The sales tax increase — a move deemed more feasible than upping the county’s property tax, which remains the lowest in the state at $2.155 per $1,000 of assessed value — would need to be approved by the state Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Saratoga is one of just five counties statewide with a 7 percent sales tax. (The remaining counties being higher)
County officials project the move could bring $11 million in additional revenue to the county during the last four months of 2012 and as much as $33 million in future years, based on previous sales trends. But would consumer trends change if the rate increases? Would buyers start making more purchases in Washington and Warren counties, which both have a 7 percent tax? Continued…
The Post-Star | Posted: Friday, November 18, 2011 2:08 pm
Meeting capsule by DON LEHMAN
* Warren County Board of Supervisors, Friday
* The Board of Supervisors unanimously adopted a $145,370,259 budget for 2012. The budget represents a 0.0022 percent drop in spending from 2011 but will require a 1.7 percent increase in the tax levy. The amount that taxes fall or drop in each community will depend on equalization and assessment rates in each town or city. It does not use any fund balance to help balance the budget. The board heard from a number of residents with concerns about the budget and the budget-making process. Bolton resident George Weinschenk questioned why taxes continue to go up but services drop. He said downed trees from Tropical Storm Irene have not been cleaned up along his road, and planned road repairs were not made. “You can’t cut my services and raise my taxes and expect me to be happy about it,” he said. Bolton resident Alexander Gabriels, a former town supervisor, praised the board’s efforts, calling the budget a “very good job.” He said he would have liked to have been able to get more information about equalization rates sooner, however. Queensbury at large Supervisor William VanNess asked the board to reconsider closing the county print shop, arguing it may cost more to have printing done off-site. Supervisors did not put it back in the budget, though. Budget Officer Kevin Geraghty warned that the budget process for 2013 will likely be harder, since revenue from $2 million in “one-shot” savings helped offset spending this year. “We’re going to be hit harder and have to make tougher decisions next year,” he said.
- UPDATED — Warren County budget opposition – Posted: Friday, November 18, 2011 10:59 am http://poststar.com
Warren County supervisors are hoping to approve the county’s 2012 budget today, but there’s a large contingent of people at the county Board of Supervisors meeting questioning some of the cuts.
There’s a standing room only crowd at the supervisors meeting room, with most of the people who have spoken so far questioning cuts to the county meal program for seniors.
The budget would bring a 1.7 percent increase in the tax hike.
Today’s Times article (picked up and given front-page play in the Albany Times Union) begins:
“A much-heralded cap on property taxes championed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is encountering resistance as some communities across New York chafe at what amounts to a restriction on their spending and seek to exempt themselves from the new limits.”
The lead implies that local officials have a burning desire to spend more, which is not accurate. The “chafing” is really about the implied restriction on their ability to raise revenues. The problem is better summarized in the article’s next paragraph:
The communities, which include affluent New York City suburbs and rural communities near the border with Canada, are declaring that they cannot restrain the growth of property taxes and still comply with a variety of state-mandated programs and provide the services residents expect.
So, what’s going on out there? The Times highlights two examples in particular: the town of Bedford in central Westchester County, and Chautauqua County in western New York. There’s more going on than meets the eye in both cases, as it turns out.
In Bedford, the Times reports, “town officials said a $22 million bond offering for a new water filtration plant forced their hand when it came to overriding the cap.”
Wait a minute, though: this report indicates that the Bedford water plant will be financed by water fees, which are not subject to the cap. Since the town board recently voted to exceed the cap before finishing its budget, the impact of water plant debt service on next year’s proposed tax levy is not clear.
This much is clear: as shown in the Empire Center’s annual compensation report, the town of Bedford pays its employees some of the highest salaries in the lower Hudson Valley –an average of $114,094 for police, and $63,807 for everyone else. Just last year, in fact, the town and the police union agreed to a four-year contract, retroactive to 2009, that raised salaries by nearly 9 percent. Town Supervisor Lee Roberts said the contract was a good deal because it featured a pay freeze in its first year. However, as this local news article points out, Bedford cops were given increased longevity increases, and “the town will make moderate increases in the amount it contributes to officer life and eye insurance premiums and uniform cleaning allowances.” And Bedford cops will continue to contribute nothing — zero — to their health insurance premiums.
Supplying the Times with a snappy quote about Cuomo’s “tone deaf” and “disingenuous” tax cap was a political lay-up for Supervisor Roberts. But if she wants to score points that can really matter in the long run, she should be willing to get more specific — demanding to know, for example, why the governor is not proposing a law setting a statewide minimum for employee contributions to health insurance premiums, as recommended three years ago by the state Lundine Commission, and as recently adopted (in different forms) by the neighboring states of New Jersey and Massachusetts. That would save Bedford, in particular, a lot of money. The town would also benefit from a reform of the state’s current compulsory arbitration law, since the prospect of a generous arbitration award is what often drives towns to capitulate prematurely to unaffordable contracts with their police unions.
The Times article also prominently cites Chautauqua County Executive Gregg Edwards, the 2010 Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, who is bitterly lashing out at the tax cap as a “scam.” Edwards’ situation, too, is more complicated than the article lets on. He has been involved in a running battle with his local state legislative delegation over the county’s sales tax rate, which in recent years has been dropped (over the executive’s objections) from 4 percent to 3.75 percent, and which is scheduled to decline to 3.5 percent next year. Chautauqua County’s revenues have been further sapped by the elimination of county sales taxes on home heating fuel, and by an agreement (under duress, at the insistence of a former Assemblyman William Parment) to begin sharing a portion of its sales tax with localities. In effect, the rising property tax is backfilling the loss of sales tax revenues. As reflected in this Jamestown newspaper editorial, the dispute is a messy one, to say the least. But it doesn’t say anything in particular about the tax cap.
Then there’s Albany County. As the Times notes, the county government in the state capital is proposing an incredible 19 percent property tax increase. Albany’s fiscal situation is also complicated, stemming in part from a battle between the Legislature and outgoing County Executive Michael Breslin over the executive’s failed attempt to shut down a money-losing county nursing home, which has been a political patronage trough for generations. The current chairman of the County Legislature — now running unopposed to succeed Breslin — claims the tax hike proposal reflects “the dire financial crisis that Albany County and indeed municipalities throughout our nation are facing,” but the problem has been greatly compounded by the Legislature itself.
Meanwhile, the Times article overlooks larger counties whose proposed budgets are all within the cap, including Erie (where the property tax levy in the proposed budget is up 1.1 percent), and Westchester and Suffolk counties (both proposing tax freezes). In each of those situations, fiscally conservative local leaders didn’t need Cuomo’s encouragement to push back against the spending tide. For example, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino and Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy both are trying to pressure recalcitrant unions into contributing to their currently free health insurance. Erie County Executive Chris Collins, frequently at odds with his local unions and now locked in a tough re-election battle, is planning another round of layoffs to keep his budget balanced.
In sum, the tax cap is incidental to broader issues and problems. Some were undoubtedly made worse by local mismanagement and miscalculations. Others will never be resolved without Albany’s help.
Bigger fireworks will come early next year, when school districts begin rolling out proposed budgets under the shadow of a tax cap provision that will give voters the power to veto any property tax hike.
Oct 10, 2011 – Each of those meetings will be followed immediately at 6 p.m. by public hearings on a proposed local law that would override the property-tax …
Oct 7, 2011 – A show of hands last night indicated where Ontario County town supervisors stand on an override of the state-imposed 2 percent property tax …
Oct 12, 2011 – While the Tompkins County Legislature got the nine votes it needed – exactly nine- at its Oct. 4 meeting to allow the county to override the state …
Oct 12, 2011 – LAKE PLACID — Local lawmakers say Essex County may need to override the state’s newly imposed 2 percent property tax cap.
Aug 30, 2011 – More than two-hundred and fifty people packed the St. Lawrence County Courthouse last night for a public hearing about overriding the state …
- CSEA supports St. Lawrence Co. Tax Cap override; Urges members to … – Tax Cap override; Urges members to attend public hearing 8/29. by CSEA Central Region 5 on Tuesday, August 23, 2011 at 1:39pm … (WELL OF COURSE THEY DO!)
Some on county board say cuts run too deep
October 19, 2011 By JOHN R. BECKER , The Leader Herald
FONDA – Some Montgomery County supervisors appear to be softening their opposition to overriding the 2 percent tax cap, and that could lead to a tax increase of 12 percent to 13 percent for 2012.
Oct 10, 2011 – According to statistics provided by the Cuomo Administration. New York has long had some of the highest property taxes in the nation, and those …
The St. Lawrence County Board of Legislators is holding a public hearing today on a proposal to override the state’s new property tax cap as part of the county’s budget. Although the tentative 2012 county budget is not due until Nov. 15, local news reportssuggest county officials are getting an early start on the cap-busting process because they are convinced they will need a tax increase well above the levy limit.(more…)
By Mary Perham Bath Courier Posted Jul 05, 2011 @ 10:00 AM
Bath, NY — The answer to one unfunded state mandate is simple, according to Steuben County legislators:
The state should pick up the entire $7.5 billion Medicaid bill now forced on counties and their taxpayers.
That solution — part of legislation making the rounds in Albany – was unanimously endorsed by
Steuben legislators Monday, after the state passed a property tax cap with no link to mandate reform.
The state now pays $20 billion for the low-income health program.
“I hope they would take it over,” said County Legislature Chairman Joe Hauryski, R-Campbell. “That’s what needs to be done.”
County leaders have lobbied for months on the need to combine any tax cap with reformed social relief programs, such as Medicaid.
They argue a 2 percent tax cap on local expenses is meaningless, placing an unnecessary burden on property owners across the state whose tax bills an average 90 percent higher because of state programs.
In Steuben, property owners paid $42 million for social welfare programs, nearly 95 percent of the total tax levy of $45 million.
Medicaid expenses this year total $18 million and could reach $23 million in 2012, the equivalent of a 7 percent property tax increase, according to Steuben officials.
Hauryski said reform is “Critical. Without any substantial mandate relief, it will force counties to make real drastic cuts in local services.”
The state legislation is supported by state Assemblyman Phil Palmesano, R-Corning, and state Sen. Tom O’Mara, R-Elmira.
By Staff reports The Leader Posted Jul 07, 2011 @ 08:00 AM
Albany, NY — State Assemblyman Christopher Friend says he voted against a 2 percent tax cap due to a lack of significant mandate relief.
Friend, R-Big Flats, cited a lack of long-term tax reductions and the absence of substantial mandate relief needed to improve the state’s economy and quality of life.
The Senate passed the tax cap measure Friday night, June 24 in a deal that became linked to rent-control protections in New York City.
State Senator Tom O’Mara said he voted in favor of the tax cap.
The Big Flats senator said the 2 percent cap on taxes will provide $127 million in immediate mandate relief and establish a process for additional mandate review and relief.
The proposed property tax cap is aimed at reversing the economic decline in many parts of the state outside of New York City.
It seeks to curb soaring property tax bills which plague many parts of the state.
Steuben County Administrator Mark Alger has said in the face of large Medicaid increases the tax cap will be a negative blow to Steuben County.
O’Mara said the Legislature is leaving Albany with no spending increases, no new state taxes or fees, and without borrowing to increase the state’s already-high burden of debt.
“Equally important, we’ve refocused state government’s commitment to meaningful Medicaid reform, upstate property tax and mandate relief, a better business climate and a streamlined bureaucracy,” OfMara said. “Overall, it’s been a positive session for state taxpayers.”
Various Other Articles:
NYSAC’s answer to Property Tax Cap / Mandate Relief
Below are links to the ideas for mandate reform and relief submitted by county officials from across New York State. Click on the links below to see specific ideas, which are organized according to which State mandate they apply to.
- Public Assistance/Safety Net
- Child Welfare
- Preschool Special Education
- Early Intervention
- Indigent Defense
- Youth Detention
- Other Mandate Relief Ideas
231 and counting. That’s how many mandate relief ideas have been submitted to Governor Cuomo’s Mandate Relief Team through the report: “Reforming Mandates, Reducing Costs.” The report is organized according to the most costly mandates that are funded by county property taxpayers.
“Counties don’t set the property tax levy, the State does. Each and every time State lawmakers require counties to deliver a new program or shift more of the cost of an existing program, they raise property taxes,” said Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks, president of the New York State County Executives Association, a NYSAC affiliate that helped submit and compile the ideas for the report. County Executive Brooks is a member of the Mandate Relief Team.
The County Call to Cut Property Taxes
“We have a property tax crisis in New York State, and that will only be solved if we change the way we pay for and deliver State services in New York,” said NYSAC President William J. Ryan, a Westchester County legislator. “Nine mandates, lead by Medicaid, consume 90 percent of the entire county property tax levy Statewide. If we cut the cost of these programs, we can begin to cut property taxes.”
In January, NYSAC delivered its report on The County Call to Cut Property Taxes to Governor Andrew Cuomo and member of the New York State Legislature. As State leaders deliberate mandate relief ideas and a property tax cap, it is important they understand what drives county property taxes. From the county perspective, nine State mandates are driving the majority of the property tax. This report identifies those nine mandates, what they cost and where they come from.
Enrollment in New York State’s Medicaid program just topped 5 million, another milestone for the massively expensive program, the Wall Street Journal reports today (subscription required). As the article notes: “The surge presents a fiscal challenge for the Cuomo administration and its effort to rein in the $52.6 billion Medicaid budget, the state’s single biggest spending area when federal and county funding is included.”
The Journal helpfully points out that this increase can’t simply be blamed on the recession. In large part, it’s the result of a deliberate policy aimed at making more New Yorkers dependent on government-subsidized health insurance:
Now that the state Public Employees Federation (PEF) has rejected a proposed contract, Governor Andrew Cuomo is moving forward with 3,500 layoffs. Or, then again, maybe not.This article in the Albany Times Unionsuggests there is an 80 percent likelihood the governor and union will reach a new deal without layoffs. The newspaper also reports that “Cuomo is demanding that any modifications [to the rejected PEF contract] have no costs.”“No costs”? How about those savings of “$75 million this fiscal year, $92 million next fiscal year, and almost $400 million over the contract term” that the governor was supposedly counting on?(more…)
There’s a bit of an irony in the location. The park is named for John Zuccotti. Zuccotti is the former deputy mayor who voted with the TWU in the last contract arbitration, awarding the workers 11.3 percent raises over the three years ending next January.
But as E.J. points out in today’s New York Post, PEF – like all public-sector unions – had little to lose from voting the contract down, thanks to the Triborough Amendment. We’ve been writing about Triborough more and more in recent months. The decades old law:
ensures that provisions of a public-sector union contract remain in effect even after the contract expires. As local government officials have been pointing out for years, this puts management — meaning, ultimately, taxpayers — at a distinct disadvantage when trying to bargain for lower costs.
Even though 3,500 PEF members will likely be laid off now:
… more than 90 percent of the union membership will keep their jobs while avoiding payless furloughs and higher insurance premiums. What’s more, thanks to Triborough, many workers will also continue pocketing the annual longevity “step” increments mandated by the civil-service-salary schedule — just as they would have done if the squishy “freeze” in base salaries had been ratified.
Finally, E.J. sums it up nicely:
After all, the main reason the Triborough Amendment hasn’t been challenged in Albany — even though it tops most municipal and school-district mandate-relief agendas — is because Cuomo has been unwilling to go near it.
They can’t say they weren’t warned.
The New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) and its lobbying partner, the Alliance for Quality Education (AQE), are holding news conferences around the state to complain about this year’s school aid cuts and about the state’s newly enacted local property tax cap. Yesterday’s NYSUT-AQE event in Albany featured an odd new twist on one of the groups’ favorite anti-cap arguments.Today’s Albany Times Union offers this partial paraphrase of remarks by Martin Messner, president of the teachers’ union in the Schoharie School District, which was hit especially hard by Hurricane Irene:
Messner, who said he had to write down his words because he was exhausted from all the cleanup work after Tropical Storm Irene heavily damaged Schoharie, called the tax cap “mean-spirited” and said it will worsen the school budget season dramatically. He challenged any politician who supported the cap to come to Schoharie to see the destruction of virtually every business in town and more than 100 homes to see how many tax dollars would be gone.
S&P has just put out a report (no link) on the amount of money that state governments have promised to current and future retirees in “other post-employment benefits” (OPEB), mostly health.The total in unfunded liabilities? $545 billion — of which New York State owes $55.9 billion, or 10.3 percent.
New York has one of the nation’s largest and highest-paid state and local government workforces, according to the latest U.S. Census Bureaudata.Based on March 2010 payrolls, the average annual salary per full-time equivalent (FTE) employee of state and local government in New York came to $62,365, third highest among the 50 states and 24 percent above the national average. Only California and New Jersey paid higher average government salaries. The state ranking breakdown is at the Empire Center’s Data Bank.The high cost of living in downstate New York and powerful public employee unions provide much of the explanation for its relatively high government salaries. But those factors don’t completely explain the exceptional sizeof the government workforce in the Empire State, as illustrated in the nearby chart.(more…)
The Competitive Enterprise Institutehas just released a new index that takes a comprehensive approach to measuring just how powerful government unions are in each of the 50 states.Which state had the lowest ranking, denoting the most powerful unions?Need you ask? Chalk up another #50 for the Empire State.(more…)