October 27, 2021

City fails to receive $290K in state funding

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

Cortland Community Oriented Police Officer Jesse Abbott is show here in downtown Cortland January 2017.

Cortland has had a downtown beat cop for three years, made possible by about $200,000 in state funding that the city received each year.

But this year, that money — SUNY Impact Aid — didn’t come through, said Mack Cook, the city’s director of administration and finance. While internet sales tax revenue will make up for the loss this year, next year the city will try again to secure this aid — or find a new source — to cover the gap.

The awards were initially introduced and championed by state Sen. James Seward (R-Milford) to offset the public safety costs associated with having a State University of New York campus. The first two grants in 2016 went to Cortland and Oneonta, both in Seward’s district.

But the program subsequently expanded to include 10 communities.

The state money enabled the city to hire an extra police officer, which allowed the department to tap Jesse Abbott as the city’s dedicated downtown beat cop, Cook said. The rest went to general public safety expenses in the police, fire and code enforcement departments.

Cook said the rapid growth of the SUNY impact aid program made it more conspicuous in Albany during a year of budget slashing. The increase this year of revenue for municipalities through the internet sales tax was also seen as compensation for the loss of this aid money, he added.

But that didn’t stop the city and Seward from continuing to lobby for the appropriation, which city officials hoped would eventually come through, said Cook. But it didn’t.

The political landscape of Albany also changed over the past year; Seward, once a member of the Senate’s Republican majority, is now in the minority.

Internet sales tax revenue will cover the loss of the expected $200,000 this year, but will not solve that gap in the future, he said, and the city will try to secure the funding again next year.

“That was one of the better programs that we were able to put in place,” he said.

The city is also set to lose $89,900 in expected reimbursement for maintaining state roads in the city limits. Cook said the city had budgeted this amount as a contingency, because it was unclear at the time the city adopted its budget whether the money would come through; it didn’t.

The state legislature passed a bill this year that roughly doubled the reimbursement municipalities would receive for state road maintenance. Cook said the reimbursement rate hadn’t changed since the 1980s. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, however, vetoed the legislation, and municipalities will continue to be reimbursed at the old rate.