Counties will keep an eye on the fact that year-to-date state tax collections are falling far short of those originally budgeted and how this is growing out-year budget gaps by billions of dollars. This does not bode well in regard to having the state increase appropriations to help lower county costs. However, the growing state fiscal challenges may spur the Governor and Legislature to fundamentally reform certain high cost programs. Such reforms can better position the state to implement the next phase of property tax relief where the state takes more fiscal responsibility for its own programs instead of relying on locally raised property taxes.
Counties will be watching the release of the Governor's Executive Budget Recommendation for clues to future spending requirements that counties might be expected to support. A proposed budget that takes bold action to reduce the cost of state mandates, and provides administrative flexibility to counties, would be optimal for local property tax payers and county budgets. A state budget proposal that outlines a “do no harm” strategy, while welcome, will prevent any significant opportunity for counties to lower costs for taxpayers. Anything else would have to be viewed as a step backward for counties and local taxpayers.
What to Watch For:NYSAC Priorities by Issue Area
Below are the specific issues NYSAC will be watching and the positions we will be advocating on behalf of our county members. To work with NYSAC on advocacy or to learn more, visit www.nysac.org/advocacy.
„„ Increase support and funding available to counties to fight the rabies virus.
Fighting the rabies virus continues to be a struggle and financial burden for counties. NYSAC calls on the Governor to increase funding available to counties for rabies awareness, vaccination, and treatment.
„„ Support funding for Local Agriculture Assistance Programs.
The recent 2016/17 Budget included $30,915,000 in agricultural funding aid to localities. We support the continued funding of these local assistance programs because the agriculture industry remains a top contributor to the New York State economy. In addition, the industry provides critical jobs, revenues, and food for our state and others.
Children and Families
„„ Fully reimburse counties for outstanding Early Intervention (EI) claims that predate the Statewide Fiscal Agent.
Counties and the Department of Health have been working over the last couple of years to determine the amount of unreimbursed claims counties have pending with the state from the years prior to the enactment of the statewide fiscal agent. DOH and the counties are nearing the end of a long work indicates that counties are likely owed what amounts to 15 % of one full year of claims owed to a typical county, or a total of about $30 million for all counties and New York City combined. We are urging the Division of Budget to provide sufficient funding in the coming financial plan to ensure these prior year claims can be paid in full as soon as practicable.
„„ Require EI provider claims to be timely filed with commercial insurance and Medicaid.
Counties remain concerned that providers of Early Intervention services have not been diligently pursuing Medicaid and third party insurance before submitting for reimbursement from counties. Many counties are reporting that their county costs are rising dramatically and it appears that falling Medicaid and stagnant third party insurance reimbursements are contributing to the problem.
NYSAC supports efforts by the Governor to encourage EI providers exhaust efforts for timely reimbursement from Medicaid and third party insurance before seeking reimbursement from counties.
„„ Remove counties from the fiscal responsibility of preschool special education and related transportation costs.
„„ Improve transparency and accountability by the NYS Education Department in the preschool special education program.
Segregating the funding and administration of education services for four-year-old children with special needs from their peers, as is the current practice in New York, makes little sense when the federal government requires these children to be provided services within the least restrictive setting and to the greatest extent possible among their peers. Counties support merging the current preschool special education program with the Universal Prekindergarten Program to improve efficiency and consolidate these programs in one place and under one funding stream.
„„ Support an increase in State FTE aid of $30 million in the 2017-18 state fiscal year, to fulfill the state promise to support one-third of the community college tuition costs.
Provide statutory clarification to the new chargeback methodology that says rates be set “up to” the maximum rate.
NYSAC has supported SUNY efforts to provide more uniformity and transparency in how chargebacks are calculated, as well as a more equitable split between sponsor contributions per student and chargeback rates. However, the state continues to delay the implementation of this new methodology. We urge the state to implement this reform.
We also seek clarification, in law, that the new chargeback methodology would allow chargeback rates to be set “up to” the maximum rate derived by the methodology. A recent interpretation from SUNY indicated that the maximum rate driven by the new chargeback methodology mandates the maximum be implemented, leaving no discretion to local schools or fiscal conditions. This new interpretation will cause imbalances, especially in regard to FIT chargebacks. FIT already has unique privileges in regard to being able to chargeback for advanced degrees and their tuition rates are more than 300 % of the average chargeback rate. Countiessupport clarifying language that the “up to” interpretation applies to FIT and other campuses.
„„ Deploy broadband grants to unserved and underserved communities across the state.
The 2015/16 Budget created the “New NY Broadband Program”. The Program created $500 million using capital funds from bank settlements to incentive the private sector to expand high-speed access to unserved and underserved areas. Highlights of the program include:
„„ Matching Private Sector Funds: Broadband providers seeking to use this funding must provide at least a 1:1 financial match
„„ Unprecedented broadband speeds. Broadband providers must provide internet speeds of 100 Mega bytes per second (mgps).
On August 3, 2016 the New NY Broadband Program announced awards of Phase I funding. The program funded 25 projects and awarded $54.2 million. Along with the awards of Phase I, included was the Application process for Phase II. Phase II will follow the same eligibility, requirements, and program design as Phase I. The service areas that received funding through Phase I are not eligible for Phase II and allows for $445.8 million to be distributed in the remaining rounds.
We encourage the state to continue its commitment and award the remaining $445.8 million to unserved and underserved areas.
Energy and the Environment
Expedite and improve the interconnection process for connecting existing and new renewable energy projects to the electrical grid.
Counties are facing two serious problems related to Renewable Energy Projects:
1. Delayed interconnection, including hydro projects that are already operating and generating electricity
2. Utility upgrade/infrastructure costs
We have a total of 14 projects that are either awaiting interconnection or are on hold due to upgrade costs being too high and threatening the viability of the project. The serious delays in interconnection, and the high costs associated with utility upgrades are delaying these vital projects and causing local governments to lose confidence in renewable energy and deter participation in other NYSERDA programs and incentives.
„„ Establish a Paint Stewardship Program to reduce local taxpayer costs of collecting and disposing left over consumer paint.
County solid waste management facilities struggle financially with managing the nearly four million gallons of leftover paint that is generated annually in New York State. For this reason, NYSAC supports the implementation of a "Paint Stewardship Program” to manage leftover household paint. A paint stewardship program would provide mandate relief while increasing resident convenience by creating an industrymanaged paint collection network. Most leftover paint is currently disposed in the garbage despite the efforts of local governments, which spend millions of dollars annually to collect and manage a small fraction of this unwanted paint through the household hazardous waste collection programs.
„„ Continue to relieve local taxpayers from costs of e-waste disposal.
Counties continue to struggle with expenses related to managing and recycling electronic waste. The 2016/17 state budget included a one-time appropriation of $3 million for e-waste grants to help reduce the financial burden on counties and local governments. However, the funding is limited in scope and does not cover all costs counties and local governments face to manage e-waste.
Reimbursement under this program is limited to direct costs paid to recyclers and does not include any indirect costs such as county employees to handle e-waste at their collection sites, labor for sorting, palletizing, wrapping, or loading e-waste into trailers. These expenses are not reimbursable through the grant program, but represent a huge expense. We urge the DOB to include sufficient funding in the 2017/2018 budget to fully relieve counties of this burden, and to expand the eligibility criteria to also include indirect costs as noted.
„„ Advocate for additional state aid and Environmental Facility Corporation (EFC) grants for drinking water and sewer infrastructure projects.
Nearly every New York community is facing high water infrastructure costs and, oftentimes, is spending scarce resources to repair their existing assets. Making the switch from paying only for repairs to paying for proper operations and maintenance is a necessary step if municipalities are going to get a handle on this growing problem, control costs and provide better value to ratepayers and the environment. Many municipalities have – or are attempting to – implement “asset management approaches” for their infrastructure, but capital investments are needed to leverage these efforts. We must begin to address our long-term problems with long-term solutions.
The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has identified over $36 billion in necessary wastewater infrastructure investments statewide over the next 20 years, and the Department of Health (DOH) has identified over $38 billion in drinking water infrastructure needs statewide over the next 20 years. NYSAC has been very vocal in requesting an additional $800 million in the 2017/18 state budget for water infrastructure needs.
„„ Promote the expansion of and access to Electric Vehicle (EV) charging stations throughout all counties in the state.
The popularity of Electric Vehicles and alternative fuel vehicles continues to grow, but the majority of counties only have between 5 and 50 total electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles registered countywide. Expenses associated with purchasing and installing charging stations for electric vehicles have been cost prohibitive. However, both the federal government and the state of New York have programs to help residents buy electric vehicles (EVs) and to help business owners and municipalities install charging stations. As of 2013, New York State provides an income tax credit for 50% of the cost, up to $5,000, for the purchase and installation of alternative fuel vehicle refueling and electric vehicle recharging stations. The credit is available through December 31, 2017, and is targeted at commercial and workplace charging stations. Today, there are 712 electric vehicle charging stations with a combined total of 1,465 charging outlets statewide. NYSAC promotes the expansion of electric vehicles, the installation of additional charging stations and advocates for additional state funding to help counties achieve this goal.
„„ Promote river and lake water quality by meeting pollution reduction targets for nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment from waste water, storm water, and agricultural activities.
Excess nutrients and sediment degrade water quality. The main nutrient/pollutant sources are sewage, cattle manure, inorganic fertilizer and atmospheric nitrogen deposition (rain and snow). Most of the sediment comes from agriculture, stream bank erosion and construction. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets and the Upper Susquehanna coalition outline water quality improvement plans to implement strategies to reduce these pollutants, but efforts continue to fall short of achieving these goals. NYSAC has been working with the National Association of Counties (NACO) to promote water quality throughout the state and will continue to advocate for improved water quality.
Organics: Reduce, Donate and Recycle
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is developing a comprehensive program to reduce the quantity of food scrapes that are disposed of in landfills. The program aims to achieve this goal by increasing the amount of edible food donated to those in need and by promoting composting, anaerobic digestion (AD) and other organics management facilities, to spur green jobs and renewable energy and to reduce harmful methane gas emissions.
Over the summer the DEC held regional food scrap legislation stakeholder meetings to solicit comments and feedback on this proposal as well as an early draft of potential legislation. NYSAC participated in these meetings.
The legislation would require large food waste generators to donate edible food when possible and to divert food waste for recycling or energy recovery if located within 50 miles of a digester or composting facility.
Although well intentioned, NYSAC is concerned that this proposal may negatively impact counties and raise costs for solid waste management. We are concerned that a solid waste facility accepting a load of waste may not know whether the load contains organics, and if a facility could be held liable for unknowingly accepting it? Another serious
concern is the requirement to ship organics to a digester or composting facility located within 50 miles. A 100 mile round trip for a single load of waste is going to be expensive and time consuming for county employees.
NYSAC will continue to track this draft legislation, advocate for county interests and work to ensure solid waste management costs are not increased.
NYSAC will continue to push for equitable sharing between the state and the county for DMV funding. By fixing the current inequity of the state receiving 87.7% of DMV funds obtained through county work and county employees, a county would be in better fiscal shape allowing for increased services for county residents and/or provide needed property taxpayer relief.
In 2016 NYSAC maintained voicing that the law surrounding indigent legal defense is clear: Indigent Defense is a constitutional obligation of the state. All costs for this service should be paid for by the state. Additionally the system of criminal justice should be uniform throughout the state. Currently five counties provided increased indigent defense services, paid for by the state, due to the state settling the Hurrell-Harring lawsuit. The state needs to cover the cost of these increased services for the other 52 counties. Legislation S.8114/A.10706, sponsored by Senate Deputy Majority Leader John DeFrancisco and Assembly Member Pat Fahy accomplishes state fiscal takeover which provides county mandate relief and allows for a uniform and enhanced indigent defense system.
„„ Indigent Defense Costs Related to Eligibility Guidelines.
On April 4, 2016 guidelines issued by the Office of Indigent Legal Services called “Criteria and Procedures for Determining Assigned Counsel Eligibility.” These guidelines alter public defense eligibility standards for those accused of a crime in many ways, none perhaps more so than the standard doubling the take home income eligibility from 125% to 250% of the federal poverty level. NYSAC pushed for and achieved delay implementation of these until April 1, 2017 in order for this action to be in line with the state budget cycle. However more changes are still needed such as regional eligibility standards regarding poverty thresholds similar to minimum wage requirements taking into account the cost of living is vastly different throughout the state, as is the hourly wage of attorneys. Also any increases in costs to counties associated with these guidelines need to be met by the state.
NYSAC supports legislation that amends existing scaffold related laws; amendments which would help ease costs associated to county capital and construction expenses. By lowering these costs, counties could save money on some of their construction projects and construction costs would decrease in the private sector, stimulating local business project growth.
On April 1, 2016 the State legislature increased State judicial salaries for 2016 and 2018. Of concern to county government, is the state law that directs District Attorney salaries to judicial salaries. Historically, when the state has adjusted the judicial salaries, it has offset the increase to the DA salaries through the State Budget. Unfortunately
the 2016 enacted State Budget did not cover the recent increases. NYSAC along with the District Attorneys Association of the State of New York (DAASNY), requests the state to reimburse the counties for any increases associated with the recent state judicial salary increase.
„„ Increase support for Article 6 programs by raising the base grant and increasing state reimbursement to local health departments.
Local health departments provide vital services to our communities and require adequate state funding to ensure continued access to these core public health services. NYSAC calls on the Governor to compensate counties for significant state funding cuts to local health departments since 2010 by taking the following steps in the Article 6 State Aid for General Public Health Work base grants and reimbursement rates:
1. Instruct the Division of Budget and NYSDOH to end administrative actions that will result in further erosion of state aid to local health departments;
2. Increase the base grant with 100% reimbursement of local expenditures on core public health services for partial service counties from $500,000 to $550,000; for full service counties from $650,000 to $750,000; and the per capita rate of the base grant from 65 cents per capita to $1.30 per capita;
3. Increase the State Aid reimbursement rate for local health department expenditures beyond the base grant from 36% to 38%;
4. Reimbursement for new state mandated activities required of Local Health Departments at 100%.