Belmont NY. The 2017 Legislative session in Albany ended yesterday without action on the sales tax extender legislation, a critical source of funds for a total of 53 counties. Allegany County is among this group.
Allegany County stands to lose nearly $6.5 million of revenue, critical to the ongoing delivery of services and programs the citizens of Allegany County have come to expect. Ironically, many of these services are mandated by either the state or federal government that require the county to provide matching funds for their service delivery. The matching funds for these programs come from one of two sources — sales tax or property tax.
The Legislative session provided a mandate for all counties to convene a County Wide Shared Services Initiative (CWSSI) requiring counties to meet with every Town Supervisor and Village Mayor within the county with optional invitations going out to the local school districts, BOCES, and special improvement districts. The directive is to identify shared services that could be implemented and reduce the property tax burden. The goal is noble, but the legislative inaction renders this nearly impossible.
The failure of this Legislative Session to fully enact the property tax extender measure places an undue burden on the county to identify funds to backfill the loss of revenue. Difficult choices must now be made in relation to the provision of services the constituency has come to expect. Every county in the state will need to evaluate how they will proceed. There is no out-of-the-box answer for this dilemma. It will need to be a combination of personnel reduction, cuts in funding for needed infrastructure (roads and bridges), waiting lists for needed services (possibly home delivered meals), and reduction/elimination of elective services (i.e. Cooperative Extension, County Administrator).
The most important decision moving forward will be to determine how much funding will be needed after the cuts or service reductions have been identified. After that decision has been made, the Allegany County Board of Legislators will need to determine a method to generate that revenue. Unfortunately, the only viable source for revenue generation is a property tax increase to reach the funding level needed for the reduced services.
It should be noted that our local legislative representatives, Senator Cathy Young and Assemblyman Joe Giglio, have supported the sales tax extender legislation. They understand the importance of these funds. In conversations with Senator Young, she is confident the matter will be resolved. We hope that this is the case. It would, however, be woefully irresponsible for us to assume that everything will be fine. We simply cannot base the needs of our constituency on the hope that the Tax Extender Legislation will be renewed. County staff has already begun to examine cost cutting measures that have the potential to reduce our operating budget by 5 percent.
This Legislation Session produced the CWSSI to reduce the property tax burden on our citizenry by encouraging shared services, cooperation with other local governmental agencies, and cost effective management. That has all been unraveled due to their own inability to practice what they preach. The citizens of Allegany County will once again bear the potential burden of a property tax increase through no fault of their own.