Oswego's Common Council, mayor and department heads saw firsthand what Gov. Andrew Cuomo's 2014 agenda will look like, during a recent presentation of his State of the State address at city hall.
The mayor of the city of Oswego says in general he supports Cuomo's budget plan for 2014, but the city's Common Councilors say rising costs and unfunded mandates make it hard to stay within the state's two percent tax cap.
Third ward councilor Michael Todd says New York's push to keep spending below two percent is great in theory, but is becoming increasingly difficult for struggling upstate municipalities like Oswego, where property taxes were raised more than 40 percent.
"We've cut just about everything that we have left to cut," Todd said. "This year, because our revenue continues to go down and our assessments continue to go down, our revenue isn't going up in any other area. That two percent has almost become almost impossible to hit. I mean, I agree with the concept of it, but it creates a situation that it's just not tenable for us."
Todd says more state aid is needed to rebuild upstate economies, so they won't be left behind the rest of the state.
"For a city like Oswego or a city like Fulton, that's as distressed as we are, how do we get to that when there's no clear picture in the future on how we're ever going to be able to increase our revenue to ever offset those costs?" Todd said. "I mean, with the state mandates and the different things that continue to come down upon us, it's just not tenable. It's never going to happen for us."
Rose Harvey, state parks commissioner who was the governor's representative who visited Oswego to present Cuomo's outline, addressed Todd's concerns, saying the governor is committed to bringing businesses upstate and is succeeding in many places.
Cuomo said during his State of the State address that New Yorkers pay the highest property taxes in the country, which he blames on having too many local governments and not enough shared services. The governor also plans to cut upstate corporate tax rates to zero, while redoubling efforts to market upstate New York as a tourism destination.