County leaders join together to fight unfunded mandates

by Carol Thompson

County leaders throughout New York State renew the call for mandate relief by delivering a series of rational and actionable mandate relief ideas to the governor’s Mandate Relief Council and State Lawmakers.

The Roadmap to Mandate Relief was published by the New York State Association of Counties and released Monday.

“Unless and until the state relieves some of these mandates, our counties will continue to face structural deficits,” said Stephen Acquario, NYSAC executive director. “Counties are doing their part to lower the costs they can control, but they have no ability to reduce the costs handed down by Albany.”

Unfunded mandates include state mandated programs, such as Medicaid and state retirement, and the costs of the programs are placed on local governments.

The Oswego County Legislature has sent several resolutions to state officials seeking relief from the costs, which continue to rise.

Next year, taxpayers are facing a 7.3-percent property tax increase with most of the 2013 budget woes being placed on the unfunded mandates.

Legislators claim that the state was able to pass an on-time budget with tax cuts by passing costs down to local governments. This has left many counties scrambling to prepare budgets that fall within the mandated two-percent property tax cap without cuts in service or manpower.

“When you consider the inflationary pressures of rising local costs, health insurance and more 30 other state mandated programs, the gap is crippling and becoming unmanageable,” said NYSAC President Edward Diana, who is Orange County’s executive.

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