Local governments want state help with unfunded mandates

Jan 11, 2018

Part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State address last week was an expansion of his shared services plan. That’s a push by the state to get local governments to be more efficient to ease property tax burden. However, the New York Association of Counties thinks the governor needs to look in the mirror.

Cuomo said property taxes have been a major burden on taxpayers for a long time, but a change to the federal tax law limits what people can deduct on their state and local taxes to $10,000. There had been no limit.

“Our property taxes have long been an obstacle to growth, but today with the federal SALT provision, it’s an economic cancer,” Cuomo said during his State of the State speech.

That’s why the Governor said he wants local governments to do more to find savings and ease the burden on local taxpayers.

Last year, Cuomo urged counties to create shared services panels. County leaders got together with cities, towns and villages to find ways to save money. It was optional. 34 counties did it and found around $200 million in savings.

Now, Cuomo wants the shared services panels to be permanent. The state will match property tax savings on the condition the panels continue every year.

Stephen Acquario, Executive Director of the New York Association of Counties, likes the dollar-for-dollar match, but said local governments have already been sharing services for years.

“We’re sharing services with our municipalities all over the state. We enjoy working with local governments," said Acquario on public radio's The Capital Pressroom a few days before the State of the State. "We don’t need the State of New York to tell us to do that. We do it everyday.”

Acquario wants to know how the state will help local governments deal with unfunded mandates, such as paying for Medicaid, but there are other examples too.

Starting this October, counties will have to provide secure detention centers for 16- and 17-year-olds convicted of criminal offenses. “This is the greatest example of shared services," Acquario said. "What is the state doing to help share the state’s assets to help the counties construct these facilities?”

That sentiment is echoed by other leaders across the state who say urging counties to find savings is good, but unfunded mandates from the state make it difficult to offer serious property tax relief.