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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

Posted in NYSAC News Spring/Summer 2014 | Comments Off

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

Posted in NYSAC News Spring/Summer 2015 | Comments Off

Counties in the News, September 2, 2015

STATEWIDE
State shifts heroin epidemic fight

LONG ISLAND
Officials: Fatal heroin overdoses double in Nassau County

HUDSON VALLEY
Westchester Honors Those Lost On 9/11

CAPITAL
Albany County exec targets feds in push for oil train crackdown

Lake George boat explosion injures two

Fonda Fair opens for 2015

MOHAWK VALLEY
Parking project will add 178 new spots in downtown Utica

CENTRAL NEW YORK
Cuomo: $50 million NYS Fairgrounds improvement project includes new expo center, RV park, ‘NY Experience’

Volunteer coordinator receives commendation

WESTERN NEW YORK
$1M Power Proceeds award playing “major role” in determining Tulip Corp.’s future in Falls

C.A.M.P. to make presentation on Civil War memorial to county lawmakers Wednesday

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Counties in the News, September 1, 2015

LONG ISLAND
Mangano Announces NASH FM’s Last Summer Bash At Lakeside Theatre

HUDSON VALLEY
73 nonunion Rockland County workers getting raises

CAPITAL
Railroad oil tank discussion put on hold again

MOHAWK VALLEY
Governor Cuomo Deploys DFS Mobile Command Center to Continue Providing Consumer Assistance to Homeowners and Student Borrowers in the Mohawk Valley

Herkimer County 4-H members Busy at Herkimer County Fair

SOUTHERN TIER
Overdose scourge: Community gathering notes ‘epidemic’

FINGER LAKES
Seneca County Public Works Committee to meet

County offers additional clinics for vaccinations

WESTERN NEW YORK
Niagara County names new buildings and grounds chief

ASC, county deal questioned

Chautauqua County IDA Markets the Area to Attract More Tourists

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Counties in the News, August 27, 2015

STATEWIDE
State Medicaid care initiative failing to launch

State energy plan could freeze out many low-income utility customers

HUDSON VALLEY
Westchester pitches new locations for General Electric

CAPITAL
Cohoes to get $500G from land bank

Sale of $2.5 million Schoharie County plant for Start-Up New York falls through

CENTRAL NEW YORK
Nonprofit seeks to use former Cayuga County nursing home for homeless housing

New Syracuse-area music venue completed, ready for debut

WESTERN NEW YORK
Hardwick urges expansion of broadband services

Orleans Legislature discusses law to regulate pawn shops, junk yards

Newfane joins microbead ban request

EC Lawmaker Calls for Action Sewage Runoff

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Counties in the News, August 26, 2015

NYSAC
Register Today for the NYSAC Fall Seminar

HUDSON VALLEY
SUNY Orange budget approved with no tuition hike

Westchester County Breaks Tourism Record

CAPITAL
Samaritan to cut ribbon on new Troy parking garage

NORTH COUNTRY
Lewis County solar project may go to vote next week

Cash flow shortage forces St. Lawrence County to borrow $10 million

Public input needed on Franklin Co. bed-tax law

MOHAWK VALLEY
County extends sales tax

Rome event to bring together beer, wine and business

SOUTHERN TIER
Reducing Child Poverty Levels in Binghamton

CENTRAL NEW YORK
County eyes effort to move emergency operations

Emerson Park dog park gets approval from Cayuga County officials

Tompkins lawmen discuss drug problem

County Executive to make ‘inaugural concert’ announcements on the eve of the State Fair

FINGER LAKES
Local IDA performance outlined in state comptroller’s report

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Counties in the News, August 5, 2015

HUDSON VALLEY
Orange County undersheriff calls for drone regulations

State mandates continue to hurt counties, says Putnam exec

NORTH COUNTRY
Cash flow shortage forces St. Lawrence County to borrow $10 million

CAPITAL REGION
Mandates hurt county budgets

SOUTHERN TIER
Upstate secession rally planned for Sunday

Steuben approves impound fees

CENTRAL NEW YORK
Barbeau celebrates 15 years with Oswego County

FINGER LAKES
Genesee to resume collective bargaining talks with deputy sheriffs union

Seneca County taking applications — again — for county manager

WESTERN NEW YORK
Allegany County Legislature approves partnership with Alfred State

Successful Back-to-Back Summer Events Help Chautauqua County’s Economy Grow (Video)

Buffalo mayor, county executive to announce fall event

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Counties in the News, August 24, 2015

LONG ISLAND
Mangano to Host 9/11 Sunset Candlelight And Remembrance Ceremony

HUDSON VALLEY
Fast food pay raise sparks push

Westchester tightens jail visiting after ODs

CAPITAL
Supervisors object to ban on restraining pregnant inmates

Warren County supervisors delay tank car endorsement

NORTH COUNTRY
Development Authority of the North Country celebrates 30 years of serving NNY counties

Groups protest plan for oil car dump

MOHAWK VALLEY
New York State Invests in Mohawk Valley Region

Legislators to vote on sales tax Monday

SOUTHERN TIER
Southern Tier Eats: Top local food, from a judge’s view

WESTERN NEW YORK
Effort underway to start Comfort House for Wyoming County’s terminally ill

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Counties in the News, August 21, 2015

STATEWIDE
Impacts of Slower Sales Tax Growth

Cuomo: I’ll bridge regional divide

HUDSON VALLEY
Sullivan HEAP applicants will have easier time this year

Cuomo Reportedly Tries To Lure Fairfield’s GE To Westchester

Dutchess County launches local business registry

CAPITAL
County approves plan to partner with Colonie on Albany Shaker Road traffic study

MOHAWK VALLEY
Oneida County officials prepare the masses for emergency medical situation (Video)

Nano announcement stirs local excitement

Oneida County STOP DWI Program in effect through Labor Day holiday

SOUTHERN TIER
A Look At Some Fun Happenings In The Region

CENTRAL NEW YORK
Tompkins committee urges pipeline health study

FINGER LAKES
Le Roy Airport improvements planned

WESTERN NEW YORK
Low-interest loans now available for those impacted by July flooding

Wyoming Health System offers early retirement for longtime staffers

Supervisors give nod to county’s leaders, volunteers

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Counties in the News, August 20, 2015

STATEWIDE
Cuomo: Hudson tunnel a necessity

HUDSON VALLEY
Rockland County drone law takes effect in weeks

CAPITAL
County to use occupancy tax to fund traffic study, despite questions

Ideas abound at economic development forum

Monthly ceremony honor former Hadley highway official

MOHAWK VALLEY
MidAir still behind on payments

CENTRAL NEW YORK
Government agency to move closer to eminent domain seizure of Syracuse scrap yard

Cayuga Community College prepares for students, investigates regionalization model

Open Imagination Library to all Onondaga County children (Editorial)

FINGER LAKES
How to help Rochester area win $500 million

WESTERN NEW YORK
Help Wanted: More future farmers!

Allegany County IDA buys former truck stop property near I-86

Work at Scoby Dam to revitalize its fishery

With new lighting, Heritage Park is glowing with pride

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Counties in the News, August 17, 2015

STATEWIDE
Obscure bills no less important to New York legislative process

LONG ISLAND
Mangano Welcomes The Driftwoods – A Tribute To The Beach Boys -To Wantagh Park

NASSAU COUNTY TO ANNOUNCE CHALLENGE THAT WILL BENEFIT SOUTH SHORE FIREHOUSES DAMAGED BY SUPERSTORM SANDY

NORTH COUNTRY
Schumer wants border jobs given to returning soldiers

Cuomo approves Franklin County bed tax

North Country delegation headed to Montreal

MOHAWK VALLEY
Laurens to lead solar-farm study

SOUTHERN TIER
Broome County considering ban on electronic smoking devices

Governor OKs Delaware bed tax

Ambitious I-86 corridor plan released

CENTRAL NEW YORK
CSEA Union, Onondaga County Reach Framework Deal for New Contract (Video)

County committee advances jail project

FINGER LAKES
Ontario County EQ considering new planning staffer role

WESTERN NEW YORK
Windmill promoter signs leases with several farmers

Erie County spending $250,000 on new lights at Rath Building

New Chautauqua Lake sewer will fight pollution

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Counties in the News, August 11, 2015

STATEWIDE
Schools facing waiver decision

Response to civilian cases touted

Canal system’s heyday is past, but its price lives on

HUDSON VALLEY
Rockland Officials Watching Local Legionnaires’ Disease Cases

Puppy Mill Law Debated in Dutchess County

Household Hazardous Waste Collection Event August 30, 2015 at Monticello Transfer Station

CAPITAL
Green Island Residents Slammed with High Flood Insurance Premiums

MOHAWK VALLEY
Economic development group to honor local recipients

SOUTHERN TIER
Habitat For Humanity Transform JC Street

Elmira Corning Regional Airport to add 350 parking spaces

WESTERN NEW YORK
Erie County passes microbead ban

COUNTIES PUSH FOR HIGH-SPEED INTERNET IN RURAL AREAS

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