February 23, 2019

Taxes may rise if area villages, towns lose state funds

Cortland County residents may see property tax increases this year if the state eliminates funding to 16 Cortland County municipalities, as outlined in the governor’s proposed budget.

Aid and Incentives for Municipalities funding would be eliminated for all municipalities in the state that rely on the funding for 2 percent or less of their budgets, under Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed $175 billion 2019 budget, in an attempt to save the state millions.

The funding traditionally goes into municipalities’ general fund and is used to offset costs. However, not all have indicated there would be a tax increase because of it.

If the budget passes with that change, the city of Cortland, town of Cincinnatus and town of Homer would be the only three municipalities to receive the funding.

The village of Homer has received more than $29,000 in AIM funding annually, representing 1 percent of the village’s property taxes, said Mayor Darren “Hal” McCabe. To account for that loss, McCabe said the village would have to raise taxes by 1 percent.

“He (Cuomo) talks about NY State having property taxes that are too high and so people are leaving, and then he goes and essentially finds a way to raise property taxes,” McCabe said in a written statement. “It makes no sense at all.”

Marathon Mayor William McGovern said he was unable to comprehend Cuomo’s logic with eliminating the funding to help balance the state budget.

“It’s a horrible idea,” McGovern said. The village of Marathon has received $9,919 a year, which McGovern said may not seem like a lot, but to a small municipality it is.

That funding was used to curtail raising village tax rates, he said. However, he couldn’t say Tuesday by how much taxes would increase without it.

“We have to make it up somewhere,” he said.

With the county’s landfill tipping fee increasing to $80 per ton this year, from $65 per ton last year, and the county’s workers’ compensation plan potentially increasing, McGovern said it is a bad time for the state to eliminate the funding.

Of the 16 Cortland County municipalities that would lose the funding, the town of Cortlandville would take the biggest hit, losing more than $37,000. However, Town Supervisor Richard Tupper is not too concerned.

“This is just the beginning of how Albany manages to balance its budget,” Tupper said. “It’s their way to say they’re not raising taxes, the local guys are.”

Tupper did not know what the effect of the losing the state funding would be, yet, but he called it a small amount — compared to the $2 million the city of Cortland gets.

Outside Cortland County, the town of Dryden would lose more than $51,000. That equates to a full-time employee, Deputy Town Supervisor Dan Lamb said.

He and the board still have to discuss the proposed cut, but Lamb has spoken with state Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul about it.

“She didn’t seem happy about it (the elimination),” he said.

With Hochul coming from a municipal government background, having served on a town board in Hamburg in Erie County, Lamb said he thinks she will advocate for municipalities.

“This is not a good thing for local government,” Lamb said, about the funding elimination, Moravia Town Supervisor Terrance Baxter declined comment Tuesday.

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