Provided by the NYS Association of Counties
This year, 51 counties complied with the State-imposed property tax cap, according to a new report issued by State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. However, that compliance comes with a high price that cannot be sustained moving forward.
County leaders, strong fiscal stewards, have made difficult but necessary decisions to stay within the cap. These actions include depleting reserve funds, cutting the county workforce, deferring critical maintenance, and selling and privatizing assets such as nursing homes, public health clinics, mental health clinics, parks, landfills, buildings, and public land.
At the same time counties are cutting the cost of their local or discretionary services, the costs of state programs continue to grow. On top of that, counties have the growing costs of employment benefits such as pensions, workers’ compensation, and health insurance.
The result of these opposing forces means counties will have little room to meet the cap in future years.
According to Comptroller DiNapoli, “If inflation continues its downward trend, counties will need to tighten their budgets even more to stay within the tax cap and deliver services that homeowners expect. I believe the financial decisions for county leaders next year will be especially difficult.”
“We appreciate Comptroller DiNapoli’s insightful report and acknowledgement of the challenges counties face,” said NYSAC President Anthony J. Picente Jr., the Oneida County executive. “After years of making painful cuts, our communities have very little left to spare. The remainder of county budgets go directly to state mandated programs. Unless the state continues to assume the cost of its programs and services, counties won’t be able to stay within the cap much longer.”
“The fact remains that over the next five years local taxpayers will send $35 billion to Albany for one program alone, Medicaid. Despite the state’s significant efforts to chip away at mandated cost growth, an enormous amount of state imposed costs remain permanently locked into the county property tax base. It’s simply unsustainable,” said NYSAC Executive Director Stephen Acquario.
The chart below from the Pew Charitable Trusts shines a bright light on New York State’s unprecedented reliance on using local tax dollars to support state programs and policies.
“We call on the Governor and state lawmakers to reset the costs of state-imposed welfare programs to a 50/50 state/county cost share, as it was prior to the recession. The current situation, in which counties pay 75% of welfare costs, is not appropriate. This should be a matter of state concern,” Acquario said.
For more information, visit http://nysac.org/legislative-action/PropertyTaxCap.php