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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.

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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.

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NYSAC News Spring/Summer 2015

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Counties in the News, February 8, 2016

PSC Commissioner talks energy reform at NYSAC Conference

State, county health officials discuss opiate epidemic during NYSAC conference


Construction on Orange County Government Center to begin soon

New Case Of Zika Virus Detected In Hudson Valley

Warren County supervisors to consider how and when to fill county administrator post

Rensselaer County offers pet vaccination clinics

Animal abuse registry concept gains in legislature

Franklin County Legislature OKs pact with county government workers

Oneida County board expected to Griffiss tenant

Joanie Mahoney: Syracuse and Onondaga County need a new metro government

County mulls dropping microbeads ban after new federal law passed

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County Leaders Recognize the Water Quality Leadership of Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz

As our infrastructure ages in New York and other industrial states, water quality issues become more of a concern for government.

Some of the most recent high profile demonstrations of these issues have been in Hoosick Falls, New York and Flint, Michigan—where toxic contaminants have tainted the water supply; and in the cities of Syracuse and Troy, New York, where burst pipes left whole neighborhoods and a community without water.

“These are times when we need leaders in local government to take proactive steps to protect our water supply systems, said Schoharie County Treasurer Bill Cherry, president of the New York State Association of Counties. “Right here in New York, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz has championed a cause to remove microbeads, contained in our health care products, and ban them from entering our water supply chain.”

A large delegation of county officials from across the State recognized Mr. Poloncarz during the NYSAC 2016 Legislative Conference on Tuesday for leading a local effort to ban microbeads. After Erie County’s ban, several counties in New York and in other state’s enacted similar local laws.

In response the Congress, in December of 2015, passed Federal Legislation that proposed a standardized phased-in ban of microbeads in health and beauty products. President Barack Obama signed the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015 on December 28, 2015.

“It is my pleasure to recognize Mark Poloncarz for his leadership, not just by enacting a local law, but for also leading an educational effort across the state and nation on the effects of water pollution,” said NYSAC Executive

Director Stephen J. Acquario in presenting a copy of the bill signed by President Obama.

On accepted the award, Mr. Poloncarz said, “Counties are in a position to lead on the issues that directly affect their residents, such as protecting water quality, and can directly impact legislation at the state and federal levels by moving on these issues, raising awareness of their importance and working with partners to  better care for our communities. I am honored to be recognized for leading Erie County’s efforts to ban microbeads and hope that we can continue to serve as an example for other municipalities to take direct action on the issues that affect them and effect positive change for their own communities.”

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

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Counties in the News, January 28, 2016

Sales tax receipts up across New York, but fall in half of counties

Coming to New York: Mixed martial arts?

Mangano and Kopel To Host Free Overdose Prevention Seminar In Five Towns

Flood defense barrier remains years away

Sullivan has spent almost $10M on jail project

Human Rights Commission Has Been Reinstated

Governor meets with Hoosick Falls officials over toxic chemical in water

Supreme Court Rules in Favor of New Herkimer County Jail (Video)

Steuben County sales tax revenue up slightly

Tax preparers look to make tax season as easy as possible

County calls for equal funding for upstate infrastructure

Addiction Crisis Center adds two beds for treatment

New Tompkins County mental health money to shorten time to treatment

Seneca Army Depot Proposal Includes Control of White Deer Population (Video)

Seneca Park Zoo to host “Free Youth February”

Chautauqua County Passes Local Law to Assist Industrial Development Agency (Video)

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Counties in the News, January 27, 2016

Executive 2016-17 State Budget Testimony on the impact to counties

Final 2015 Sales Tax Revenues Red Flag for Many Counties

Sales tax revenue is down in 30 counties (Updated)

Counties Want Bigger Piece of DMV Pie

Orange County Launches New Tourism Video

Sales tax revenue shows steady growth

Jefferson County Board of Legislators Finance Committee approves new contract with CSEA

Change required to fight ‘great waste and duplication’

Syracuse-Onondaga merger: Read the full 80-page Consensus report

Cayuga County calls for 100 percent state-funded indigent legal defense

Gardner says state grant isn’t a good fit for Yates County

Allegany County to invest time in a land bank corporation

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County Statements on 2016-17 State Budget Testimony

January 26, 2016

The New York State Association of Counties (NYSAC) and the New York State County Executives Association today provided testimony to the State’s Joint Legislative Public Hearing on 2016-2017 Executive Budget Proposal impact on Local Government Officials and General Government.

NYSAC President and Schoharie County Treasurer William Cherry said:

“Our counties are continuing to work collectively to control county property taxes, and we encourage state lawmakers to consider our proposals for meaningful mandate relief. We also call on the state to invest the remaining one time bank settlement funds in local roads, bridges, water and sewer projects as a way to shore up our infrastructure and create needed jobs in our communities.”

Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, president of the New York State County Executives Association said:

“Counties have focused on ways to reduce property taxes for decades. Last year, every penny of the county property taxes levied outside of New York City went to pay for nine state mandates. If the state is committed to reduce the property tax burden, then it needs to take fiscal responsibility for more of its programs. County leaders all calling for phased in takeover of Indigent Legal Defense Services and a return of the 50/50 state local funding formula for the state’s Safety Net program.

“We look forward to working with the State Legislature and the Executive Branch as budget negotiations begin in earnest, aimed at enacting a budget that reduces the tax burden and strengthens the economic standing of all of the counties across the state.”

To view the whole Budget Testimony click here

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Final 2015 Sales Tax Revenues Red Flag for Many Counties

Recently, the NYS State Tax Department released 4th quarter 2015 sales tax data that show continued retail stagnation in most counties across the state. The fourth quarter data also allows for full year sales tax analysis, which is troubling when compared to 2014.  View the County By County data.

In the 4th quarter of 2015, 31 counties experienced negative growth in sales tax receipts when compared to the same time period in 2014. New York State also saw their share of sales tax receipts decline by 2.3 percent in the 4th quarter of 2015 compared to 2014.

“This is most troubling because the fourth quarter includes holiday sales, which traditionally boost sales tax revenues across the board,” said New York State Association of Counties (NYSAC) President William Cherry, the Schoharie County Treasurer.

For all of 2015 compared to 2014, 30 counties experienced negative growth in sales tax receipts – with the average change per county down .3 percent. New York City, meanwhile, did quite well in both the 4th quarter (+17 percent) of 2015 and for the full year +7.3 percent.

In 2015, 12 counties collected less in sales tax revenue than they did in 2013. For 11 other counties, while not negative, they averaged less than 1% growth per year in sales tax receipts between 2013 and 2015.

According to NYSAC’s analysis, it is not clear whether these lower receipts are related to a lackluster economic growth, lower motor fuel and energy prices, minimal wage growth, household deleveraging (debt reduction vs spending) or some combination of factors.

Media contact:

Mark F. LaVigne, APR
Deputy Director
New York State Association of Counties
540 Broadway
Albany, NY 12207
518-465-1473; 518-429-0189 (cell)

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
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Weekly Wire: Budget Testimony, Indigent Defense, Legislative Conference, Training

NYSAC Presents

The County Perspective on the State Budget: NYSAC to Deliver Testimony

Tomorrow (January 26), NYSAC and local leaders will provide budget testimony at a joint legislative budget hearing on local government.

NYSAC’s testimony will focus on controlling county property taxes, government consolidation proposals, indigent legal defense services, the use of bank settlement funds, new transportation infrastructure programs, public safety and other mandate relief ideas.

The link to the live feed of the hearings can be found here:

The agenda is tentative, but NYSAC is scheduled to present testimony at 3:20 p.m.

Counties Stand Up for State Funding for Indigent Defense

On Thursday, January 21st NYSAC joined Assembly Member Patricia Fahy, Senator John DeFrancisco, and county executives from across the state for a press conference in support of legislation (A.6202B/S.6341) calling on the state to incrementally take over the costs of Indigent Legal Defense Services. County leaders are encouraged to send letters to state lawmakers in support of including this legislative language in the 2016-17 State Budget.

This two-house bill recognizes that for half a century counties have taken on the fiscal responsibility of indigent defense services, a service which is a federal mandate.  The bill would require the State, not the counties, to incrementally take over payment for such service.  If passed and signed into law this systematic change would directly lead to improvements to this vital service for residents in need, and provide meaningful fiscal mandate relief for counties and real property taxpayers.

For more information on this legislation,

NYSAC’s 2016 Legislative Conference starts Feb 1

Stay ahead of the curve by attending the training programs at NYSAC’s 2016 Legislative Conference, next week in Albany.

The lineup of timely workshops will keep you up-to-date and informed on the most important issues for counties. From dealing with drones, expanding broadband access, the impact of Airbnb, social media 101, law enforcement body cameras, women’s leadership roundtable and battling heroin addiction, this conference offers a series of training workshops that will help you be an informed local leader.

Thirty workshops, 13 standing committee meetings, and a number of networking opportunities have been planned to arm county officials with the latest information and tools necessary for public service and advocacy.

For more information, visit

State Update

Upcoming State Legislative Schedule

The Legislature is expected to return to session on Wednesday and Thursday. Joint Legislative Budget Hearings are scheduled for the end of January and beginning of February.

2016 Joint Legislative Public Hearings Schedule

January 26 Tuesday 10:00 AM Local Government Officials/General Government Clinton Freeman 455-5491
January 27 Wednesday 9:30 AM Elementary & Secondary Education Clinton Freeman 455-5491
January 28 Thursday 9:30 AM Environmental Conservation Jessica Jejune 455-3573
February 1 Monday 10:00 AM Housing Clinton Freeman 455-5491
February 2 Tuesday 9:30 AM Taxes Clinton Freeman 455-5491
1:00 PM Economic Development Jessica Jeune 455-3573
February 3 Wednesday 9:30 AM Mental Hygiene Clinton Freeman 455-5491
1:00 PM Workforce Development Jessica Jeune 455-3573
February 4 Thursday 9:30 AM Public Protection Jessica Jeune 455-3573
February 8 Monday 12:30 PM Higher Education Clinton Freeman 455-5491
February 9 Tuesday 9:30 AM Human Services Jessica Jeune 455-3573

Rockefeller Institute Launches Constitutional Convention Educational Website

As part of its multi-year educational campaign designed to promote awareness and understanding of the 2017 New York State Constitutional Convention referendum, the Rockefeller Institute in Albany, the State University of New York’s public policy research arm, today launched a Constitutional Convention web portal on its site. It can be found at

Federal Update

Key County Priorities Included in State of the Union Address

The National Association of Counties provided an analysis of the county issues addressed by President Obama in the State of the Union Address, and areas where federal action is needed. To read NACo’s analysis, visit

Events & Training

Emergency Management Certification and Training

NYSAC, the NYS Emergency Management Association (NYSEMA), and the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services (DHSES) are once again partnering to deliver emergency management training to County Chief Executives as part of the Emergency Management Certification and Training (EMC & T) program.

The training will take place on Wednesday, February 3rd beginning at 9:30 a.m., in conjunction with NYSAC’s 2015 Legislative Conference. The EMC & T Tier 1 training is designed specifically for County Chief Executives so that in the event of a natural disaster or other emergency in your county, you and your staff have the tools necessary to protect lives and promote the safety of your constituents. Please note that this session will also meet the annual refresher training requirement for those that have already completed the initial training.

Governor Cuomo has made this training a requirement for all counties in order to be eligible for any grants administered by DHSES. The EMC & T program supports Governor Cuomo’s goal of unified training, education, communication, and response protocols.

We encourage County Chief Executives to register and welcome executive staff and other individuals from your county departments that would benefit from this training.

Please register at

DEC Climate Smart Webinar Series

The Department of Environmental Conservation’s Climate Smart Communities 2015/2016 Webinar Series is available online. Upcoming webinar topics for 2016 include:

February 11, 2016
Renewable Heating Options & Weatherization Programs

March 10, 2016
Community Choice Aggregation

April 14, 2016
Comprehensive Plans with Sustainability & Smart Growth

May 12, 2016
Climate Smart Communities Certification

June 9, 2016
Solar Power Installations on Landfills

All webinars will begin at 10:30 a.m. and last approximately 90 minutes. Information on how to access each webinar is distributed via the Climate Smart Communities listserv and available through the event listing on the DEC calendar,

Recordings of past webinars and PDFs of the PowerPoint slides are achieved and available here:

Grants Training in Syracuse, Discounted for NYSAC Members

The SUNY Oswego Division of Extended Learning and Grant Writing USA will present a two-day grants workshop in Syracuse, February 18-19, 2016. This training is for grant seekers across all disciplines. Attend this class and you’ll learn how to find grants and write winning grant proposals.

Click here for full event details.

They are providing NYSAC members a tuition rate of $425, which includes all class materials. Please use discount code “NYASSN” to receive this $30 discount off full price at registration. Seating is limited, online reservations are necessary.

NYMIR To Host Winter Weather Exposures and Liability Webinar

The New York Municipal Insurance Reciprocal (NYMIR), which provides property and casualty insurance services to over 30 counties nearly 900 local governments in New York, will present a January 27th Webinar on the risks of winter weather to local governments.

The Webinar will address litigation and claims arising from sidewalk slips and falls, the prior written notice law, roof collapses, sledding and skating issues and immunity for snowplows and emergency vehicles during storms.

The Webinar will be held Wednesday, January 27th at 10:30 a.m. To add it to your calendar and for more information click Join WebEx meeting.

Posted in NYSAC Weekly Wire Week Ending January 22, 2016 | Leave a comment

Counties in the News, January 25, 2016

26% of municipalities overrode the tax cap in 2015

Cuomo orders LIE travel ban, LIRR suspension

County to award Government Center contracts

Dutchess County ‘bans the box’ on county job applications

Astorino Announces Two Top Appointments: Commissioner of Human Resources and Director of Real Estate

Washington County’s tourism approach is not traditional

Legislature to add Vartigian to Memorial Wall

Santulli: Shared services won’t increase taxes

WIC board members concerned about increasing costs for proposed Jain building

Titus Mountain adds features in preparation for 2016 Empire State Winter Games

State Scaffold Law costly to taxpayers, hinders business for NNY contractors

Area leisure options might grow when nanotechnology comes

Legislature Chairman Gardner announces standing committee assignments

‘All about the revenue’: Is a competition brewing between Cayuga, local DMVs and NY DMV? (Blog)

Seneca County Board of Supervisors’ committee list released for 2016

Here’s what you get when you collect 10,000 pounds of unwanted prescription drugs

Ontario County seeks applications for Casella scholarships

Properties OK’d for inclusion in agricultural district

Niagara Legislature shields nonunion retirement health insurance from politics

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Counties in the News, January 21, 2016

Cuomo’s transgender protections take effect today

Few answers yet on plan worth billions

Agency gives homeless vet a hand

Winter Sports in Westchester County Parks

Dutchess County Prepares for New York Special Olympics Games

County to welcome 90 new citizens from 34 countries

St. Lawrence County attorney heading to Albany to discuss indigent defense bill that could save local legislature millions

Jefferson County sales tax revenue slumps, Lewis County experiences surplus

Malone Winter Carnival Revue features a mix of new and returning performers

Franklin Co., IDA plot economic-development roles

Sun shines as Lewis County officials sign solar contract

Herkimer Co. Legislature addresses road projects, minimum wage proposal

Officials: Governor committed to new hospital

New positions on tap for Oneida Co. attorney’s office

Cayuga County Legislature discusses environmental testing of foreclosed land in Fair Haven

Erie County Legislators Expected to Reject 2 a.m. Closing Time

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Counties in the News, January 19, 2016

Upcoming Legislative Conference, Governor’s Executive Budget proposals, Supreme Court case on public unions

Municipalities face flat aid, competition for funds

Dutchess County Initiatives Aimed at Advancing Diversity, Human Rights (Video)

‘Mill at Middletown’ Affordable Housing Project Expected to Make Summer Deadline (Video)

New Albany County Legislature Chairman zeros in on housing, taxes

Warren County supervisors renew animal control service contract

Schenectady County to sell two lots near SCCC to business

HCR, OMH, Regan and CPC finish $14.3 million affordable housing development; Homesteads on Ampersand in Clinton County

Total jail outboarding expenses decrease in 2015; pod renovation proves cost-effective way to house more inmates

Montgomery County executive seeks Smart Climate tag

Cold, snow hit region; more on way

Task Force announces ambitious poverty reduction action plan for Oswego County

Oswego County Harvest Dinner 2015 a success

OFA provides transportation to Hannibal site

Waterbourne Construction Advisors to oversee NCCC’s $25M Learning Commons project

Decision on including farms in agricultural district imminent

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