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COUNTIES COLLABORATE ON CONFLICT DEFENDER SERVICES

By Colleen Pillus, Dutchess County and Mark Longtoe, Ulster County

In December, Ulster County Executive Mike Hein and Dutchess County   Executive Marc Molinaro jointly announced a shared services agreement  between the two counties to address the soaring State-mandated costs of  providing legal defense counsel to indigent clients. The county executives  have forged a cooperative agreement to garner a level of cost containment over a State mandated expense that has now reached a combined total of  nearly $3.9 million annually in Ulster and Dutchess counties, while maintaining high quality representation.

To date, when a Public Defender’s Office is disqualified from representing an eligible indigent client due to a legal conflict, a private attorney is  assigned. The attorney then bills the county according to rates established by New York State in a process referred to as “assigned counsel.”

The skyrocketing cost, coupled with decreased program aid from New York State, has placed a significant additional burden on counties to cover the cost of this mandated service. In 2011, this system of providing representation cost Ulster County taxpayers $1,345,653 while Dutchess  County taxpayers spent $2,540,000.

“Governments at every level must learn to work past political differences and municipal boundaries to focus on delivering results for the people. I am confident that the citizens of Ulster and Dutchess will benefit from this innovative collaboration,” said Ulster County Executive Hein.

County Executive Hein continued, “Not only does this pilot program  represent a $175,000 savings for Ulster County’s taxpayers, it represents a $300,000 total savings for our region’s taxpayers, all while those in need continue to receive high quality legal representation. This is truly a  win/win collaboration, and we both look forward to working with our respective legislatures to make it a reality.”

Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro said, “This agreement is the  first of its kind in New York State for county Public Defender’s Offices and  represents exactly the type of cooperative partnerships we need to embrace if we are to be successful in our efforts to deliver smaller, smarter government to our taxpayers. I am grateful to Public Defender Tom Angell for seeking out new and better ways to meet our residents’ needs, while reducing costs. We were very pleased to bring this plan to Ulster County and appreciate the support and cooperation of County Executive Hein to  make this partnership a reality.”

Ulster County Public Defender Andrew Kossover added, “I want to thank  both County Executive Hein and County Executive Molinaro for this  innovative, cooperative approach to a fiscal problem that is plaguing  counties throughout the State. I am excited to take part in this shared  service arrangement, and look forward to working with Dutchess County’s  Public Defender Thomas Angell.”

Dutchess County Public Defender Thomas Angell noted, “This new  arrangement will permit each of our Public Defender Offices to create cost efficiencies while at the same time increasing the quality of legal services  provided. I look forward to this new partnership with Ulster County Public Defender’s Office. Our clients will better served by having access to full time defenders as well as the investigators, social workers and outside resources that our respective Public Defender Offices can provide.”

The one year agreement unveiled today will be a pilot program in County Court, City of Kingston Court and Town of Ulster Court in Ulster County;  and County Court and City of Poughkeepsie Court in Dutchess County.

Posted in NYSAC News Winter 2013 | Comments Off

NYSAC News Spring/Summer 2014 Table of Contents

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NYSAC News Fall 2014 Table of Contents

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Medicaid Cap and Pension Reform: Real Progress in Mandate Relief

By Dave Lucas, Director of Finance and Intergovernmental Affairs

If lowering property taxes in New York State was akin to building a monument there would be varying opinions on what we have built so far. Some would say we have nothing more than a hole in the ground. Others may say we have built a very nice monument. Still others may say we have laid the cornerstone and construction is ready to proceed. In truth, New York has not lowered property taxes, but it has slowed the rate of growth.

For most of the last 50 years, New York State has been at or near the top of the list of states with the highest tax burden per capita. While comparing tax burdens across states, especially on a per capita basis, could lead to some mischaracterization, it is pretty clear that this is not a list any state wants to be on top of — especially for decades!

While some will quibble over the exact cause of high property taxes, a major contributing factor is that New York State, as a matter of public policy, uses property taxes to support a wide variety of state initiatives and public policy goals.

A recent study by The Pew Charitable Trusts shows that New York State gets more than 15 % of its revenue from local governments to fund and implement services. The average for the remaining 49 states is 0.8 %. By a factor of nearly 20 times, New York relies more than any other state on local government revenues to support state services and public policy goals. This is why our property taxes are 80 % above the national average.

For decades, Governors and state legislative leaders have wrung their hands over the high property tax burden in New York. In fits and starts, they have focused on reducing the state reliance on local revenues to pay for state programs. However, these efforts were not long lived, as new mandates were created, existing programs were expanded, and the many statutory promises to take more fiscal accountability over state programs never materialized.

Recent Actions May Lead to Real Change

While the state’s history in dealing with high property taxes has been lacking, recent actions are providing glimmers of hope. Given the magnitude of the problem it should be expected that fostering real change will take a long time. At the root, high spending causes high taxes, regardless of who is paying the bill (the state or local governments).

The Great Recession exposed the state’s habit of overspending, and it was forced to change. Governor Cuomo and the State Legislature have begun reversing decades of overspending. Five consecutive on-time budgets have each come in below two % growth, showing a commitment to budgeting in a more sustainable way.

The enactment of the state revenue cap on local governments (a.k.a. the property tax cap) was supposed to be part of a two-pronged attempt to address high property taxes. The second piece was mandate relief for local governments (meaning, the state would either take more fiscal responsibility for their own programs, or they would reform them so they would be less costly, or both). While the kind of mandate relief local governments have been hoping for has not yet come – the kind that will allow for the reduction of property taxes for today’s levels, not just slowing the rate of growth – the State has taken some important steps toward increasing their own fiscal responsibility and reforming high cost programs.

Medicaid Financing Reform

For counties, the biggest mandate reform has been the imposition of a cap on local costs for Medicaid. New York State requires counties to

pay $7.2 billion each year for the state’s Medicaid program. To make this clear, each week counties and NYC send $140 million in local taxes to State bank accounts, so they can pay for Medicaid bills. Counties in New York spend more on Medicaid than all the counties in the rest of the nation combined. These are big numbers and they have big impacts on local property taxpayers. The positive thing is that the state capped the growth in local Medicaid costs to no more than three % per year beginning in 2005, and beginning in 2015 these costs will no longer grow.

For Medicaid, the State has taken more fiscal responsibility for their program. This is a good thing because it improves accountability to the tax payer and the entity that controls the program must now take responsibility for the fiscal consequences. Implementing these growth caps was not easy or cheap for the State. When the state took on more responsibility for their program they realized they could not afford it. This lead to the next positive outcome–the State began to fundamentally reform its Medicaid program to make it more efficient, effective and affordable.

Had this Medicaid cap not been imposed, local taxes would have to be much higher than they are today—by billions of dollars. The Medicaid fiscal and program reforms taken by the State mean the program will be more sustainable for years to come and reduces pressure on future property tax growth significantly.

Pension Reform

Another major reform State Leaders took on recently was modifying the pension system for state and local public employees. Under State law, all local governments must participate in the state designed system. The Great Recession created huge losses in the public employee pension system and annual contributions from local governments quadrupled in just a few years. These costs impacted the state as an employer as well, so they were incentivized to create a more balanced system while retaining a generous pension benefit for employees.

The State’s creation of a new pension tier will cut nearly in half the annual pension costs for each new employee hired and will reduce future costs for the state and local governments by tens of billions of dollars in the coming decades.

It may have taken a once-in-many-generations fiscal crisis to force change, but the change, for now, seems to be sticking. The Governor and state legislature continue to be very careful not to impose new costs on local governments and have proven they can implement significant reforms that many thought were impossible. We are making progress, but we have a long way to go. The foundation is being built so we can get to the next phase of government reforms that will continue to improve fiscal accountability and provide a real opportunity to actually cut property taxes from current levels.

Posted in NYSAC News Winter 2015 | Comments Off

NYSAC News Spring/Summer 2015

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Counties in the News, July 22, 2015

NATION
Jobs Data for States, Halfway Through 2015

STATEWIDE
New York state fast-food panel weighs minimum wage raise increase

Assembly Speaker Takes the Pulse Beyond Albany

NEW YORK CITY
Adult business rules rejected

HUDSON VALLEY
Energize NY Completes Its First Affordable Housing PACE Financing in New York State

County Police Charge Four More Inmates with Promoting Prison Contraband

CAPITAL
Schenectady counting dogs and charging fees in census

NORTH COUNTRY
Low 2016 tax cap could mean trouble for Jefferson, St. Lawrence counties

In split decision, St. Lawrence County lawmakers agree to fill deputy sheriff job

St. Lawrence County legislators delay decisions on proposed cuts to senior citizen meal program

MOHAWK VALLEY
Cargo Train Crashes into Antique Locomotive in Utica

SOUTHERN TIER
Chemung Dental Clinic transfer seen to ease fiscal pain

Emergency Assistance Program/Food Pantry Supervisor

CENTRAL NEW YORK
County Leader Takes a Dive in Onondaga Lake

Round Two: 2016 budget picture clears up in Cayuga County Legislature meeting

Welcome to NY, 680: New area code announced

WESTERN NEW YORK
Flood-recovery operations return to county building in Mayville

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Counties in the News, July 21, 2015

STATEWIDE
Counties: Tax Cap Rate ‘Good News and Bad News’

Some feel squeeze from tighter cap

HUDSON VALLEY
Communities to feel pinch of record-low property-tax cap

More people are visiting Dutchess County, spending more money

Orange County may modify law allowing sparklers

CAPITAL
Number of Albany-area children living in poverty rises

Rensselaer County warns of increase in tick-borne illness

New Saratoga economic development chief getting to known semiconductor industry

Saratoga County Fair opens Tuesday

NORTH COUNTRY
Paul Smith’s College on verge of being renamed for $20 million donor

MOHAWK  VALLEY
MVCC to expand Rome campus shuttle service

SOUTHERN TIER
New York Property Tax Growth Capped 0.73 Percent For 2016

Elmira to explore potential stand-alone electric system

Stopping drug and gang violence in Broome County (Video)

CENTRAL NEW YORK
Cuomo meets privately with Syracuse leaders about region’s bid in $1.5 billion competition

WESTERN NEW YORK
Rough quarter for sales tax in Allegany County

Arts Council welcomes crayon donations for Wyoming County Fair project

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Pressure on Local Government Budgets Grows Comptroller: Lower Inflation Rate will Impact County Revenue

New York State residents may be seeing more cuts in local services as local governments, already operating within a tax cap and falling revenue, are about to be squeezed event tighter.

The NYS Comptroller released a report today detailing the final property tax cap inflation factor for counties for 2016. The inflation factor provides the starting point for allowable property tax revenue growth under New York’s property tax cap program.

According to the report, property tax revenue growth for local governments will be capped at .73 percent for the 2016 fiscal year due to the lower inflation rate. This is less than half of the allowable growth rate in 2015.  In addition, the 2016 revenue growth rate for counties will be nearly three times lower than the spending growth rate in the State Budget. The Comptroller rightly points out that this will mean a loss in crucial revenue for local governments, specifically in the funding of local operations as the majority of county funds are used to pay for state programs.

For county operating purposes this .73 percent revenue cap translates to $35 million in available funds statewide (outside of New York City) to support the increased cost of all county government operations in 2016, including more than 40 programs that counties administer and fund on behalf of the state.

“This is good news and bad news. Good news that property taxes will remain low, but bad news in that quality of life services, such as police protection and road maintenance, are likely to see cuts in the coming year,” said Stephen J. Acquario, executive director of the New York State Association of Counties(NYSAC).

“The property taxpayers of New York deserve tax relief. New York property owners have been taxed too high for too long. Local governments have done their part to lower this burden. Sadly, the state imposed tax cap carries with it no assumption of the costs of state services delivered locally. The end result is clear: our communities will continue to see a sacrifice of local services to meet the state’s goals. As we enter the 2016 budget year, county leaders renew their call for the state to pay for its public assistance programs,” said Acquario.

Counties have two forms of revenue: sales and property taxes. Last week, the State Department of Taxation and Finance released second quarter sales tax revenues that had dozens of counties seeing reductions in sales taxes and 33 having reduced revenue for the first six months of the fiscal year.

“Even with Sales tax revenue shrinking across the state, county governments are committed to keeping property taxes as low as possible,” said NYSAC President Anthony Picente. “County governments need targeted relief. The State should begin working with us today to ease the financial burden of the Safety Net program, which is just one of the state programs where counties bear the brunt of the cost.”

The New York State Association of Counties is a bipartisan municipal association serving all 62 counties of New York State including the City of New York. Organized in 1925, NYSAC’s mission is to represent, educate and advocate for member counties and the thousands of elected and appointed county officials who serve the public. To learn more, visit www.nysac.org.


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Counties in the News, July 20, 2015

STATEWIDE
1.1 million New Yorkers added to roll for Medicaid

HUDSON VALLEY
State commission set to discuss power-line proposals on Monday

Dutchess Tourism celebrates 31 years of growth

New signage at Warwick intersection

CAPITAL
Greene inmates a boon to Columbia County Jail

New Washington County administrator approved

NORTH COUNTRY
Looking up: Sales tax bump, advance planning is helping county finances

North Country Community College pursuing online degree program

MOHAWK VALLEY
County hires Green as Youth Bureau director

SOUTHERN TIER
Rubber duck race raises money for Humane Society

CENTRAL NEW YORK
Boards limited in technology options

FINGER LAKES
Seneca County Chamber Statement on Lago Resort & Casino

Seneca County names 911 director

Survey to shed light on homeless

WESTERN NEW YORK
Erie County IDA can audit payrolls for pay equity

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Counties in the News, July 17, 2015

STATEWIDE
Governor supports shield for immigrant workers

Gov. Andrew Cuomo asked for help with PSC in telecom changes

NORTH COUNTRY
New Jail Dorm Saves County $320K In June

Lewis officials seek funding for Lowville water, sewer upgrades

MOHAWK VALLEY
County sees jump in sales tax revenue for second quarter

Project engages thousands in region

SOUTHERN TIER
Parking Ramp Collapses, Johnson City Declares State of Emergency

IDA director joins state Economic Development Council board

CENTRAL NEW YORK
Roth Steel yard subject of talks between Canadian scrap magnate, county officials

WESTERN NEW YORK
Wyoming supervisors back arts initiatives

Allegany Co. sheriff scraps plans to run Project Lifesaver

Cattaraugus County looking at $300,000 in storm damage

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Counties in the News, July 16, 2015

NYSAC
Liquid Nicotine, Plastic Bags, and Chemicals in Children’s Products

STATEWIDE
Gov. Andrew Cuomo asked for help with PSC in telecom changes

HUDSON VALLEY
Ulster County Community College budget approved, freezing tuition; enrollment decline is a concern

4-H Fair Week Designated in Putnam

CAPITAL
Saratoga County municipal grants available

Rensselaer County and Sheriff’s PBA reach four-year contract

Medical marijuana hopeful to bank with Sefcu

Officials, police reward kids for wearing bike helmets

MOHAWK VALLEY
Chamber, county partner for veterans program

SOUTHERN TIER
County, City Officials Present Drug and Gang Violence Prevention Seminar

Baker Hughes leaves Chemung County; 50-plus jobs lost

CENTRAL NEW YORK
Cayuga Community College cash flow improved, trustees bid farewell to interim president

WESTERN NEW YORK
Chautauqua County Leaders Work to Bring Residents Short, Long-Term Relief after Flooding

Governor Cuomo Announces New Workforce Development Center on Buffalo’s East Side

Changes must be made to keep Erie Community College viable

Erie County IDA approves pay equity policy

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Counties in the News, July 15, 2015

NYSAC
Second Quarter Shows Uneven Recovery

Sheriffs Marine Patrols Protect and Serve on the Water

NATIONAL
New York senators to study Iran nuclear deal before judging it

STATEWIDE
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand bill targets illegal gun trafficking to New York

State Parks offer swimming lessons

LONG ISLAND
Nassau approves land bank to acquire zombie homes

Mangano To Host Free Family-Fun Children’s Day And Health, Fitness & Sports Expo At Eisenhower Park

NEW YORK CITY
175 years of trans-Atlantic service

HUDSON VALLEY
Astorino Announces $2.1 Million Grant to Fund Permanent Homes for Chronically Homeless Residents

Dutchess lawmakers call on Albany to create statewide Rocky’s Law

DCC tuition to rise, but still lowest in NY

Westchester police to issue more tickets on parkways

CAPITAL
Two Schenectady County deputies honored

NORTH COUNTRY
Jefferson County Board using efficiency committee to help cut costs

12 new ADK boat decontamination spots

MOHAWK VALLEY
County approves water plan

Legislature looking to fill Herkimer College trustee position

Griffiss Institute Hosts ARFL Engineering Camp

Homeowners see financial gains: ‘Housing wealth’ up statewide and locally

SOUTHERN TIER
Tioga Co. develops vacant land, allows certain fireworks

CENTRAL NEW YORK
Cayuga County Legislature: Should county courthouse staff be allowed to concealed carry guns at work?

County agency may seize Roth Steel scrap yard in Syracuse

County Legislature names Powell new Solid Waste director

FINGER LAKES
Brooks seeks approval for PAC study funds

County Executive Shares Findings of Monroe200 Report (Video)

WESTERN NEW YORK
Wyoming Shelter law delayed again, as supervisors examine more concerns

Erie County Environment and Planning, partners collaborate on conservation with composters, rain barrels

Flood Water Swamps Basements, Cuts Through Chautauqua County Roads

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Second Quarter Shows Uneven Recovery

Statewide sales tax data for the 2nd quarter of 2015 were released by the State Department of Taxation and Finance, and the results indicate that much of the state is struggling to be buoyed out of the prolonged economic recession that started in 2008.

View 2nd quarter results by county and a map representing the volatility of the first six months of 2015.

Sales tax highlights for the first six months of 2015 include:

  • In the second quarter, 26 counties experienced negative growth in their sales tax receipts, with the average change per county coming in at .49 percent (outside NYC)
  • In the first quarter, 33 counties experienced negative growth in their sales tax receipts, with the average change per county coming in at -.9 percent (outside NYC) – compared to the prior year.
  • Over the first six months (January through June), 18 counties experienced negative growth in sales tax receipts in both quarters and 41 counties experienced negative sales tax growth in at least one quarter (see attached map for breakdown)
  • The average change per county in sales tax receipts for the first 6 months (January through June) was -.2 percent
  • New York City returned to strong growth in sales tax receipts in the 2nd quarter at 4.24 percent, this is up from 1.22 percent logged in the first quarter

“The explanation for the first quarter’s numbers was pegged to bad winter weather, dropping fuel prices, a west coast port shutdown, negative US GDP for the first quarter and a strong dollar,” said Stephen J. Acquario, executive director of the New York State Association of Counties (NYSAC). “There was no bounce back, but there was also no explanation for the continued lethargy.”

View the second quarter data by county here.

As always, quarterly data can be volatile due to prior period accounting adjustments or audit recoveries by NYS Taxation and Finance, storm rebuilding or general strong growth in the prior year and changes in local sales tax rates. Trends are best determined by looking at longer time.

The New York State Association of Counties is a bipartisan municipal association serving all 62 counties of New York State including the City of New York. Organized in 1925, NYSAC’s mission is to represent, educate and advocate for member counties and the thousands of elected and appointed county officials who serve the public. To learn more, visit www.nysac.org.

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Counties in the News, July 13, 2015

NYSAC
2015 State Budget Protects and Enhances NY’s Water Resources, Infrastructure

STATEWIDE
Impact of SAFE Act deal unclear

Gov. Cuomo’s Wage Board to mull fast food pay

LONG ISLAND
Nassau Awarded Grant to Study Emergency Power for East Rockaway and Bay Park Communities

NEW YORK CITY
Disability pride parade draws thousands in New York City

HUDSON VALLEY
Ulster, Dutchess, Columbia and Greene County meetings: Week of July 12, 2015

Dutchess County names acting mental hygiene commissioner

Another plastic grocery bag ban proposed

CAPITAL
C-GCC looks to attract students, raise tuition

Albany Co. to receive award for Veterans services

Top-selling baby product on Amazon.com is made here

NORTH COUNTRY
St. Lawrence County IDA chief helps write law requiring businesses to give back government money if they don’t create jobs as promised

MOHAWK VALLEY
Mohawk Valley Leaders Aim to Reduce Poverty

County lawmakers OK funds for Rome, MVCC budget

Grant program can aid small businesses

Verona Beach State Park completes upgrades

SOUTHERN TIER
Company makes bid for medical marijuana distribution center in Vestal

CENTRAL NEW YORK
Forum in Oneida focuses on improving CNY economy(Update)

Volunteers Hand Pull Invasive Plant Species from Salmon River

FINGER LAKES
Seneca committee rethinking water rates

Ontario County passes pawn law

WESTERN NEW YORK
Orleans County CAO Chuck Nesbitt named to NYSAC board

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County Association Elects Dutchess County’s Molinaro to Board of Directors

Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro was elected recently to the New York State Association of Counties’ (NYSAC) Board of Directors. In his role on the board, Molinaro will represent counties of the Hudson Valley region.

NYSAC represents all of New York’s 57 counties plus the City of New York.

Molinaro has served as Dutchess County Executive since 2011. He previously served on the Village of Tivoli Board of Trustees and in 1995, he became the youngest mayor in the United States. He was re-elected mayor five times and elected four times to the Dutchess County Legislature. In 2006, he was elected to represent the 103rd District in the New York State Assembly. Governor Andrew Cuomo appointed him to serve on the Governor’s Mandate Relief Redesign Team.

His time as County Executive has focused on economic development, a streamlined county government, and shared services within municipalities.

“I am proud to serve on the NYSAC Board of Directors, and take seriously our role serving and advocating for New York’s counties,” said Molinaro.

“We are honored to have County Executive Molinaro join the NYSAC Board of Directors. His experience and insight will be valuable to the Association as we work on behalf of New York’s counties and county officials,” said NYSAC Executive Director Stephen Acquario.

The New York State Association of Counties is a bipartisan municipal association serving all 62 counties of New York State including the City of New York. Organized in 1925, NYSAC’s mission is to represent, educate and advocate for member counties and the thousands of elected and appointed county officials who serve the public. To learn more, visit www.nysac.org.

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