County legislature protests tax cap without mandate relief
Submitted by Howard Owens on May 26, 2011 - 7:46pm
Without mandate relief, local officials say, a proposed property tax cap will strangle county government.
The cap proposal is moving through Albany and today the Genesee County Legislature sent a strongly worded letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and local representatives.
Without addressing the root cause of the problem -- unfunded mandates -- counties will have to begin eliminating all non-mandated, community-based programs and services to stay under the cap. These programs include veterans services and aging programs, local road and bridge maintenance and repair, road patrol, long-term care and substance abuse services, to name a few.
Legislative Chairwoman Mary Pat Hancock told WBTA today that rising pension costs and Medicaid expenses that are "forced" on the county are eating up too much local revenue.
"Pension costs have gone up 31 percent," she said. "And in the past several years, Medicaid has continued to escalate in cost."
WBTA also spoke with Batavia City Schools' Business Manager Scott Rozanski, who predicted dark days ahead under the cap.
"In essence, it means we could only increase our expenditures by about $350,000," he said. "Cutting more is doable, but it would probably create a lot more uproar."
Superintendent Margaret Puzio blamed the current proposed increase in the tax levy on Albany.
"The only reason we're looking at an increase in the tax levy is because our state aid was cut," she said.
While in Batavia today, Sen. Mike Ranzenhofer addressed the issue. Ranzenhofer expressed support for Hancock's call to have the state assume the costs of Medicaid.
"I was a county legislator for 20 years -- I understand that issue," he said. "I'm also very concerned about overuse of the Medicaid system by some, to the detriment of others. I'm talking about not having every possible optional service that you can have.
If the state took over funding Medicaid, Razenhofer, it might take more seriously such as issues of fraud and waste and find ways to improve efficiency and reduce costs.