It was just a couple of weeks ago that Wayne County Administrator Rick House joined other officials from across the state to lobby in Albany for unfunded mandate relief.
House visited the Governor’s mansion with other members of the New York State Association of Counties, which represents county leaders all across the state, to seek some relief from state mandates. A state mandate is a service or program that is required by the state for a county to provide, such probation, Medicaid and retirement. The news wasn’t promising.
At present, state mandates make up 98 percent of Wayne County’s tax levy, money collected from property taxes. In 2017, that totals $38,838,050, up from the 2016 tax levy of $37,845,563. Among the top 10 most costly mandates are Medicaid, which costs the county $14,128,582, retirement/pensions, community college tuition payments, child welfare protection and prevention, preschool supportive health services, public assistance, indigent defense, probation, youth detention and Early Intervention.
“These mandates are killing counties and driving up property taxes,” House said. “These are very necessary programs. They are very laudable programs. We just want the state to pick up part of the tab.”
During their meeting, the Governor told county officials he wants to drop property taxes through shared services between county, town and village.
“We’re already doing that.” House said. “This is nothing new to this county.”
House said the Governor has a proposed referendum still in its earliest of stages that would require each county to develop a plan for new shared services, but would not include the existing ones.
“We have put in place a ton of efficiencies,” House said, including shared dog warden officers, 911 that serves the entire county, and intermunicipal agreements with towns and villages for snow plowing.
In fact, Wayne County was among the first to begin using shared services in 1999 when Lyons created a joint maintenance facility between town, village and schools.
Wayne County is also one of only four counties across the state that share their sales tax revenue with schools, towns and villages. Some $5.4 million goes to the 11 schools in Wayne County and another $6.8 million is split among the towns and villages.
Sales tax is flat right now, House said, but the county is working on some ideas to increase revenue. For example, they are formulating legislation to recoup some taxes from Internet sales and another plan to collect the fee paid by cell phone users for those on pay as you go plans.
The county has begun sending out flyers with tax receipts explaining state mandates and how much they cost the county. House said they hope to educate residents about their tax dollars and where the money goes.
Residents can be proactive on the issue by reaching out to their local legislator, senator, assemblyman or the Governor.
Tammy Whitacre is a reporter for FingerLakes1.com. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or followed on Twitter at FL1_TWhitacre.