The Record-Review – The official newspaper of Bedford and Pound Ridge, New York

 

January 13, 2012


How do you spell ‘m-a-n-d-a-t-e r-e-l-i-e-f’?

When you talk to government officials at all levels, and of all parties, in New York State, they all agree on one thing: mandate relief.

In White Plains, both the Democratic-controlled Board of Legislators and Republican County Executive Rob Astorino are agreed on the need to reduce social service, environmental and state safety mandates.

According to the New York State Association of Counties, counties in New York have long served as the principal partners in administering the state’s most critical programs in areas such as health, human services and public protection. But over time, the state has required county property taxpayers to subsidize an increasing number of the state’s programs and services. This year more than $11 billion in local taxes will be used to subsidize state spending decisions — 16 percent of the state’s total general fund.

They’re not the only ones.

In overturning the state’s 2 percent tax cap last fall, Town of Bedford board members blasted the state government for implementing a tax cap but not introducing mandate relief along with the cap. Significant increases in pension contributions by local municipalities, the MTA tax, and MS4 stormwater regulations are among the costly yet unfunded state mandates that Bedford and local governments have to pay for while still trying to meet the 2 percent tax cap limit.  

Deputy Supervisor Peter Chryssos called passing the tax cap without addressing the unfunded mandates “nothing but a shell game” on the part of Governor Andrew Cuomo and members of the state Legislature.

Bedford Central School District board member Erika Long last year said “districts are hamstrung by unfunded state mandates and restrictive legislation, most of which seeks to protect adults, rather than ensuring that the children of the state get a high-quality public education.”

At the Katonah-Lewisboro School District in December, board members called for a long-range academic plan that would include the required mandates such as Response to Intervention, which addresses the needs of students who are experiencing academic difficulties, and new evaluations for teachers and administrators that are now required as part of the federal Race to the Top competition.

Even Albany knows this state of affairs is untenable. Assemblyman Robert Castelli last year sponsored legislation to repeal the Triborough Amendment — the requirement that a public employer continue terms of an expired agreement until a new agreement is negotiated with an employee organization. Mr. Castelli also signed on to a bill known as “the taxpayer protection and mandate relief act,” with the goal  of a state spending growth cap, employee contributions to health insurance, limiting unfunded mandates, labor law reforms relating to public works projects, repeal of the Wicks law and reductions in reporting requirements under the education law.

This week, Mr. Castelli’s office said that the bill is currently in the Local Governments Committee, and would then need to go on to Codes and Ways and Means before it is considered by the full Assembly. “Assemblyman Castelli will be working to ensure that these bills are brought to the floor for a full and meaningful public debate,” said his spokesman, Chris Stasio, this week.

Governor Andrew Cuomo is hearing this message. In forming his “Mandate Relief Team” last year, Mr. Cuomo noted that New York has the highest local taxes in America as a percentage of personal income, 79 percent above the national average; New York has the second highest combined state and local taxes in the nation; median property taxes paid by New Yorkers are 96 percent above the national median;   property tax levies in New York grew by 73 percent from 1998 to 2008, more than twice the rate of inflation during that period; Westchester, Nassau, and Rockland are respectively the first, second and fifth highest-taxed counties in the nation. When property taxes were measured as a percentage of home value in 2009, nine out of the top 10 counties in the nation were all in New York.

With the release of the mandate relief team’s report late in December, we can see that some savings are already coming. The team reports that mandate relief initiatives saved $125 million, and regulatory reforms from this process will save an additional $40 million. Proposals advanced by Mr. Cuomo but not enacted in the final agreement with the Legislature would save local governments and school districts an additional $245 million each year and would provide greater flexibility as they administer programs.

As promising as this is, in a multibillion-dollar budget, this is a drop in the bucket. Now begins the next step. A new Mandate Relief Council begins work this week, on Jan. 15. This new council is charged with reviewing and referring statutory and regulatory unfunded mandates for modification or repeal. Among the members are not only lawmakers but union officials, business leaders and representatives of the state’s school districts.

Officials did not need this report to know that there are innumerable places to cut mandates within our towns and counties, be they through cooperative efforts, centralization, consolidation, privatization, procurement flexibilities or other means. Cutting significant costs at this early stage — where there is so much bloat, duplication and overpayment — should be a fairly easy goal.

Legislators at all levels of government recognize the need to change. New Yorkers who are being taxed to death are demanding it.


To view the governor’s report on mandate relief, visit www.governor.ny.gov/mandaterelief.

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The official newspaper of the towns of Bedford and Pound Ridge, New York

Editorial

NEWSSTAND LOCATIONS

Pound Ridge/Scotts Corners

  1. Scotts Corner Market – Trinity Corners Shopping Center;  55 Westchester Avenue

  2. Pound Ridge Sunoco — 66 Westchester Avenue    

  3. Sam Parker Country Market — 257 Westchester Avenue    


Bedford Village

  1. Bedford Rexall Pharmacy — Hunting Ridge Mall; 424 Old Post Road  

  2. Village Green Deli — Village Green; Routes 22 and 172    

  3. Bedford Shell — Routes 22 and 172 (at blinking light); 848 So. Bedford Road

  4. Village Service Center —193 Pound Ridge Road (at Long Ridge Road intersection)    


Bedford Hills

  1. Bedford Hills Deli – 7 Babbitt Road    

  2. Bueti’s Deli – 526 Bedford Road (Route 117)


Katonah

  1. NoKA Joe’s – 25 Katonah Avenue    

  2. Steger’s Paper Mill – 89 Katonah Avenue    

  3. Perks – 197 Katonah Avenue    

  4. Katonah Pharmacy – Katonah Shopping Center; 294 Katonah Avenue   

  5. Bagel Shoppe – Katonah Shopping Center; 280 Katonah Avenue    

  6. Katonah Sunoco – 105 Bedford Road


Mount Kisco

  1. Teamo/Mt. Kisco News – 239 Main Street    

  2. Connie’s at Northern Westchester Hospital
    400 E. Main Street    


South Salem/Vista

  1. JNR Pharmacy – 222 Oakridge Commons;
    Route 123   


Cross River

  1. Bagel Boys Café – Cross River Shopping Center; Routes 121 and 35    

  2. Cross River Shell Station – Route 35    

  3. Cameron’s Deli –  890 Route 35    

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