Members of Monroe County Supervisors’ Association recently spoke in favor of meaningful property tax relief as an alternative to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed mandate that would take away town control of town services.
The supervisors said that the governor’s recent proposal for local governments doesn’t touch any of the factors that drive up state property taxes — unfunded state mandates and state level policies that force up the cost of local government across the state and cuts in state aid to municipalities.
“By leaving untouched the real factors that drive up property taxes, the governor’s proposal completely misses the mark” said Bill Smith, MCSA president and Pittsford town supervisor. “It would force on each town a countywide plan subject to a countywide vote for providing town services and thereby deprive residents of each town of the right to decide these matters for themselves.”
The supervisors pointed out that local governments and shared services saved taxpayers statewide about $17 billion in the last three years, according to the State Association of Towns.
“We’ve been sharing services and reduce costs through mutual cooperation for decades,” said Bill Moehle, Brighton town supervisor.
Monroe County’s towns have a documented history of sharing services going back decades. For example, all towns in Monroe County collaborated in creating a countywide shared services plan that the county then submitted to the state in 2015 as part of the tax freeze program. It just went into effect.
“The residents of each town have the best idea of what their town’s priorities should be,” said Gay Lenhard, Ogden town supervisor. “Those decisions should be up to them, not up to people who live on the other side of the county and have their own priorities.”
The supervisors said that across all the towns in Monroe County, only 10 cents or less of every dollar a taxpayer pays in property tax goes to the town. About 65 cents of each dollar goes to the taxpayer’s school district and 25 cents to the county. School districts are uniquely burdened by unfunded state mandates.
“This is why we have to deal with the root causes driving up property taxes and not seek to penalize the entities like school districts bearing the burden,” said Mike Barker, Perinton town supervisor.
MCSA provided details furnished by the State Association of Towns that described local government shared services and efficiencies across the state, outlined issues affecting property tax rates illustrated the growing impact of the state’s cuts to Aid and Incentives to Municipalities over time.
“Withholding state aid is no way to reduce property taxes” said David Dunning, Chili town supervisor. “State aid is a proven tool to lower property taxes and should not be conditioned on the adoption of another unfunded mandate. AIM was cut in 2009 and 2010 and has been flat since 2011. The cuts alone represent a 9 percent reduction; when inflation is factored in, AIM has fallen 17.6 percent. Increasing AIM funding by $152.8 million will make up for lost funding and help local governments lower property taxes. In addition to increasing AIM funding, sustainable property tax relief requires meaningful mandate relief, a stated goal of the governor’s since he took office. In reality, only a single initiative toward mandate relief has been enacted — a Medicaid cap benefitting county governments.”
The supervisors are urging residents to contact their State Senate and Assembly representatives to oppose the governor’s local government proposal and to deal with the real causes of high property taxes in New York.