Niagara Gazette — Gov. Andrew Cuomo hopes the state's new budget will send the following message to local governments across New York: Find ways to cut costs by sharing services and consolidating or face financial and, perhaps, political consequences.
During a conference call Wednesday with editorial board members from newspapers across the state, Cuomo lauded the fourth on-time spending plan in the last four years as being not only fiscally responsible but helpful in tackling one of New York's biggest problems: high property taxes financing multiple layers of local government.
The budget, adopted by the state legislature on Monday, advances Cuomo's property tax relief plan, a component that the governor described as "transformative" in that it is estimated to result in $1.5 billion in relief for New York's tax-weary property owners.
Under year one of the plan, homeowners will qualify for a 2-percent rebate on their annual tax increase provided their local governments operate under the state's two-percent property tax cap. By year two, Cuomo said the plan will require officials from local governments to develop their own three-year shared services plans, which must result in tax levy reductions of at least 1 percent. If not, constituents living in those communities will not be eligible to receive the annual tax break, which state officials have said would come in the form of checks delivered to property owners.
As he has in the past, Cuomo described property taxes as the state's most pressing problem, noting that back in 1932 then Gov. Franklin Delano Roosevelt decried the number of local governments and property tax burden in New York.
Cuomo said he's hopeful the previously enacted 2-percent cap and elements of the new tax relief proposal will provide incentive to local officials to do more joint purchasing of vehicles and other equipment and services as well as consolidate what he described as local, and often costly, "silos" of government. He said the plan was intentionally developed to provide "political pressure on the local governments."