Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposed 2019-20 spending plan is not set to include its annual aid from New York State for the fiscal year beginning June 1 to the Town of North Hempstead, the Village of Baxter Estates, the Village of Flower Hill, the Village of Port Washington North and the Village of Sands Point.
In this, the villages and town have plenty of company; according to one source, 1,328 of the state’s 1,465 towns and villages will receive zero in funding from the Aid and Incentives to Municipalities (AIM) program. In the governor’s $175.2 billion budget, only those municipalities whose AIM accounts for at least 2 percent of their budget will receive this unrestricted funding.
Regionally, the biggest loser is the Town of Hempstead, recipient of about $3.848 million in AIM in 2018.
Every year since Cuomo assumed office in 2011, AIM has remained the same: $715 million, with the vast majority ($647 million) going to cities. The AIM, in Cuomo’s 2020 proposal, will be cut by $60 million to $655 million. Funding will stay the same for cities, and the 9 percent of towns and villages that retain eligibility will share the remaining $8 million.
According to the Rochester Democrat-Chronicle, “state lawmakers will have to parse whether the AIM funding cut is a necessary cost-cutting measure or a strategic move by Cuomo, who is well-known for using the levers of power to help negotiate a budget agreement each year. The Democratic governor is seeking a permanent property tax cap extension—something many towns and villages despise—and could seek to trade restoration of the funding as a compromise.”
In a statement, NYCOM Executive Director Peter A. Baynes said, “When it comes to local governments and the property tax, the governor’s budget fails to abide by its theme of ‘justice,’ as it would eliminate state aid for the vast majority of New York’s smallest local governments….We urge state legislators to join NYCOM in the fight to restore these cuts, preserve the essential municipal services funded by this aid, and protect New Yorkers from state-induced increases in the regressive local property tax.”
Budget negotiations usually produce an agreement by the mandated deadline of March 31.
Town, Villages React
In the 2018-19 year, the Town of North Hempstead received $1,023,565 in funding, while the proposed budget offers $0 in funding.
“We always appreciate and rely on AIM funding from the state,” said Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Judi Bosworth. “Our town’s 2019 budget has already been established and it would be extremely problematic to change it in mid-stream. We will wait to see what happens in the State Senate and Assembly throughout the state’s budget process.”
Similarly cut down to $0 in the proposal were Baxter Estates, who previously received $6,104; Flower Hill, who received $19,822; Port Washington North, who received $10,694; and Sands Point, who received $16,537. The proposal includes the annual funding of $96,120 for the Village of Manorhaven.
“There is much upset among mayors throughout the area about the loss of AIM funding,” said Sands Point Mayor Edward A.K. Adler. “Relative to our budget in Sands Point, it’s a relatively small amount, but it’s the principle. It was a topic on many mayors’ minds at the Town of North Hempstead State of the Town luncheon.”
Mayor of Baxter Estates Nora Haagenson, said the village is distressed about the proposal that would eliminate the village’s AIM funding.
“AIM funding has not been increased for 10 years while expenditures have continued to rise,” said Haagenson. “We sent letters to our state officials imploring them to advocate on our behalf. Baxter Estates would lose $6,104, which represents .78 percent of our $784,365 total expenditures from 2017. Any loss of funding for a small village is significant as we use that funding to offset tax increases in order to provide vital services to our residents. We are already constrained by unfunded state mandates and rising costs. If the goal is to enact progressive tax reform, it will not be achieved by cutting local aid and removing municipalities’ ability to follow through on their goal to reduce the regressive property tax burden. We are hopeful that our state representatives will successfully fight for us in Albany.”
“Our share is $10,694,” said Mayor of Port Washington North Robert Weitzner. “Losing any recurring revenue puts pressure on future budgets and can affect the services our residents expect and deserve. In addition, while this revenue source is threatened we continue to abide by the 2 percent tax cap and at the same time absorb increases in healthcare and pension costs. It is imperative that we retain the AIM funds to continue to operate as an effective village. ”
The Village of Flower Hill put an announcement up on its website, urging residents to contact their state legislators and urge them to oppose this measure. The village lists for residents to write in to Senator Anna Kaplan at www.nysenate.gov/senators/anna-m-kaplan or call 516-746-5924 and to write in to Assemblyman Anthony D’Urso at www.assembly.state.ny.us/mem/Anthony-D’Urso or call 516-482-6966. Mayor of Flower Hill Robert McNamara endorsed the statement from Baynes.
Additional reporting by Frank Rizzo.