State Senator Betty Little and Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy listen to testimony during the Mandate Relief Committee public hearing at the Lake Placid Convention Center March 2.
Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy listened to the concerns over state mandates from local taxpayers and officials during the State Mandate Relief Committee public hearing at the Lake Placid Convention Center March 2.
"This is an incredibly important aspect of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's program to have this committee and host these public hearings," Duffy said. "These issues have been kicked down the road for far too long, and we want to hear from you and take the time to hear your concerns and bring them back to the committee."
Duffy and his panel, which included state senator Betty Little along with Assemblywomen Janet Duprey and Teresa Sayward, listened to testimony from those who asked to speak, and then asked questions of each person who spoke.
Lake Placid Mayor Craig Randall said that he felt state mandates were hurting his ability to keep jobs and balance a budget, stating that the village employee rolls had gone from 90-plus employees to around 75.
"I want to say that is a win, but it really is not," Randall said. "These are all jobs that people need to support their families in this economy. The ability to remain successful with our budgets is going to have a lot to do with controlling our costs."
Clinton County Legislature Chairman James Langley, Jr., said that while probation and other mandates concerned him, he was hopeful that the hearings would bring about results.
"I am thankful for this process and believe that it will produce results," Langley, Jr. said.
Essex County Board of Supervisors Chairman and Jay head administrator Randy Douglas said that he hoped something would happen, because running government has become increasingly difficult.
"We are struggling in Essex County to make it an affordable place for the people who love it here to live," Douglas said.
He then turned the microphone over the Vice Chairman and North Elba Supervisor Roby Politi.
"New York State cannot continue to pass off costs to the county budgets," Politi said.
Politi and Essex County Manager Daniel Palmer brought up the issue of the county paying for busing services for Head State programs.
"Why is a county in the education business," Politi said. "Why is this not being done by the people who have the expertise on this matter."
"We would like to contract out with the schools, but we can't," Palmer said.
Palmer also brought up the need for Medicaid relief.
"For every man, woman and child in the county, I have to allocate $171 per year, per person," Palmer said. "The new cap that the Governor has proposed is a good step, but this year it will only result in a one-penny savings on my tax rate."
Palmer also said that he was concerned with the state and counties being on different fiscal years, because it leads to reductions from the state funding in the middle of the county budget year.
"I wish that there was some rule that said you cannot reduce my funding during my fiscal year," Palmer said. "We need to know when we build a budget that the revenue that we are anticipating is the revenue that we are going to get."
Franklin County officials said that they were committed to the two-percent tax cap, but that it was not easy.
"Our decisions to reduce costs and live within the tax cap were extremely difficult ones," Franklin County Legislator Gordon Crossman said. "We recognize the efforts of the Governor to reduce property taxes. But without mandate relief, there are going to be increasing concerns to the counties."
"There are places that are different because they chose to be very fiscally responsible before the tax cap and now it feels that they are being penalized for that," Warren County Chairman and Queensbury Supervisor Dan Stec said. "Mandate relief is linked together as part of this process. We have two mandates that by themselves that are putting us above the two-percent tax cap. You put our nine mandates all together, and you are looking at double the tax cap."
This story was updated to correct a misspelling of Janet Duprey's name.