6:50am

Mon February 17, 2014
Politics and Government

New York Conference of Mayors has one focus

Mayors from across the state have a bone to pick with the Cuomo administration. It is the governor’s proposal for a two percent tax freeze over two years. It would reward communities with property tax rebates if local governments implement austerity measures to keep their growth under the cap.

It sounds great on the surface, but according to the New York Conference of Mayors in Albany recently, looks can be deceiving.

The conference got underway with leadership cutting right to the chase. They jumped over issues such as a decrease in AIM funding, school budgets and the prevalence of vacant properties in some municipalities and went right to the tax cap. 

NYCOM President and Minoa mayor Dick Donovan says Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the legislature don’t seem to understand.

“I think it’s something that really discourages some of the local communities that have been doing the right thing to keep their budgets down and keep their taxes down," Donovan said. "And we’re not getting credit currently for what we have done.”

During the opening meeting, East Aurora Mayor Allen Kasprzak went a step further saying he was tired of the state’s towns and villages being treated as "low hanging fruit" by Cuomo.

“Here we are trying to work these services for these people and we’re being played upon like the boogie man," Kasprzak said. "We’re the economic problem that’s dragging this state down and where I think if you go and you talk to various mayors of these villages they will tell you, ‘look, we’re operating at peak efficiency here, why are you throwing up more roadblocks in our way?’”

In addition to the tax cap, what seems to upset the mayors is that they don’t feel they’re getting credit for any of the austerity and consolidation work they have already done.

“Definitely unfair, we should get credit for the hard work we put into our budgets and for the things that we’ve tried to implement for our residents,” said Menands Mayor Meg Grenier.

She says villages like hers have largely part-time staff working miracles on tight budgets to meet residents' needs. She says her village already shares services with the town of Colonie and Albany County.

To help NYCOM members and their constituents fully understand the effect of state mandates on local government, NYCOM Executive Director Peter Baynes announced stopthetaxshift.org, a website highlighting what conference leadership says are the 50 most egregious executive orders from the state.

But, the meeting wasn’t all fire and brimstone -- NYCOM President and Minoa Mayor Dick Donovan says he wants mayors across the state to engage in a dialogue with their legislators about what local governments are doing to save money and how many are struggling.

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