County demands mandate relief

JOHNSTOWN – The Fulton County Board of Supervisors on Monday declared May to be “Mayday for Mandate Relief,” urging the state to adopt laws that prohibit unfunded mandates on local governments.

The resolution passed at the County Office Building calls upon lawmakers in Albany to enact legislation preventing future mandates without corresponding aid to pay for them.

“Even though this is largely symbolic, we should reinforce this,” said Perth Supervisor Greg Fagan.

Fagan, chairman of the board’s Finance Committee, said the state puts the mandate “burden” on counties without giving them the financial support to deal with them.

The resolution indicates that counties are mandated to administer and finance dozens of state and federal programs.

“Fulton County’s fiscal challenges are a direct result of state-imposed mandates and reduced state reimbursement,” the resolution says.

The board noted the New York State Association of Counties has identified nine state mandates that consume 90 percent of all county property taxes across the state, excluding New York City. Those nine mandates represent over $4 billion in county property taxes levied for the following: Medicaid, public assistance, child welfare and preventive care, special education pre-school, early intervention, probation, indigent defense, youth detention and pensions.

“The reality is the state only puts forth gimmicks,” said Gloversville 5th Ward Supervisor Gregory Young.

Young said county taxes are actually “disguised” as state taxes for the mandated programs.

“These state mandates are the root cause of high county property taxes in Fulton County,” the resolution says.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state Legislature recently passed a “substantial” new mandate upon local governments in the form of a real property “tax freeze,” the resolution added.

Cuomo in January first proposed his two-year freeze on property taxes in school districts and localities that stay within the 2 percent tax cap. It freezes property taxes for two years, subject to two conditions. In year one, the state will only provide tax rebates to homeowners who live in a jurisdiction that stays within the 2 percent property tax cap. In year two, the state will only provide tax rebates to homeowners who live in a locality that stays within the cap and also agrees to implement a shared services or administrative consolidation plan.

Gloversville 6th Ward Supervisor Warren Greene noted he was a longtime county department head. Greene, former director of the probation department, said the state instructs county departments to do more while reducing their state revenues by 2 to 4 percent.

Greene said “every day” should be “Mayday for Mandate Relief” in the county.

Johnstown 4th Ward Supervisor William Waldron said Cuomo talks about mandate relief, but the state fails to deliver.

“That’s all it’s ever been,” he said. “It’s a lot of hot air.”

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at manich@leaderherald.com.