Weekly Wire Week Ending May 6, 2016
Mayday, Finance School, DA Salary Reimbursement, Funding, more
Registration Open: 50th Annual County Finance School
May 18-20, 2016 at the Sheraton Syracuse University Hotel
Each May, NYSAC partners with the Office of the State Comptroller and the New York State County Treasurers and Finance Officers Association to present the Annual County Finance School.
County Finance School offers a unique opportunity to learn the ins and outs of county-specific financial regulations, procedures, challenges, and solutions. County Finance School features a number of workshops that are CPE-accredited by the Office of the State Comptroller and the New York State Department of Education for CPAs.
View details and registration.
NYSAC Launches 2016 Mayday for Mandate Relief Campaign
"Mayday" is an international call for help, derived from the French venez m'aider, meaning "come help me." Last week, NYSAC launched the 2016 "Mayday for Mandate Relief" campaign to call on New York State to provide much-needed mandate relief for counties and local governments.
In 2015, nine state mandates consumed 99 percent of the property taxes levied by counties across the state, outside of New York City. This year's state budget raised district attorney salaries that must be paid by counties with no state reimbursement. Additionally, new state-imposed indigent legal defense requirements will significantly impact eligibility for those in need of criminal defense counsel. Again, the state is mandating local action without providing resources to offset costs.
Counties are encouraged to localize the impact that state mandates have on county budgets, and send a message to state representatives that more needs to be done to enact mandate reforms that relieve local property taxpayers.
Learn more and download resources for your county.
View #Mayday4Relief tweets and join the conversation.
NYSAC Letter Decries New
Indigent Legal Defense Regulations
NYSAC sent a letter to the state Office of Indigent Legal Services asking them to delay implementation of new standards they released on April 4th that would expand the eligibility for a publicly-funded attorney to those earning 250 percent of the federal poverty rate, which is $30,000 for individuals and up to $62,000 for a family of four.
Albany Update: Back in Session
As state lawmakers convened in Albany for the last few week, advocates were out in full force to push for their issues to make it on the agenda by the end of session. There remains 18 days left of Session, with 9 scheduled session days in May, and 9 in June, the remaining weeks will be a busy time in Albany.
NYSAC continues to advocate for counties to ensure new programs place no additional financial burdens on county property taxpayers.
During these 18 remaining Legislative days NYSAC's key priorities include:
NYSAC Testifies to the Assembly Local Government Committee
NYSAC Executive Director Stephen J. Acquario thanked the members of the Assembly Local Government Committee for their efforts to increase funding for local infrastructure in the form of road and bridge dollars and the expanded availability of state money for drinking water projects.
Acquario also asked the committee to support legislation that will provide state reimbursement to counties for the increased DA salaries, adopt a bill that would enable a phased in state takeover of indigent legal defense service costs, and pass a bill that will realign the 9-1-1 surcharge that funds improvements to the emergency communication programs in counties across the state.
NYSAC Advocacy with DAs
NYSAC along with the District Attorneys Association asked the State Legislature to reimburse the counties for increases associated with the recent state judicial salary increase. "While it is unfortunate that the projected $1.6 million cost for DA salary increases was not included in the State's over $150 billion budget, it is not too late to correct the oversite. While the $1.6 million may seem minuscule in the face of a $150 billion spending plan, it amounts to a significant portions of the county's allowable tax growth under the state-imposed property tax cap," said NYSAC President William E. Cherry.
In addition, NYSAC and the District Attorneys Association worked together to advocate the need to additional measures in order to curb the growth of the heroin epidemic throughout the state. Bridget Brennan, Special Narcotics Prosecutor for New York City testified before the Assembly Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Committee on Strategies to Curb an Epidemic.
5¢ Fee on Plastic Bags Is Approved by NYC Council
The New York City Council voted 28 to 20 on Thursday, May 5, 2016 to require certain retailers to collect a fee on each carryout bag, paper or plastic, with some exceptions. The Council settled on a 5-cent minimum fee after an earlier version of the bill called for 10 cents; stores, which will collect and keep the fees, can charge more if they choose.
Under the legislation, restaurants, including those that deliver and serve takeout, and street vendors of prepared food will not have to charge for the plastic bags they give to customers. Among the other exemptions: plastic bags used for produce, small paper medicine bags at pharmacies, bags used at state-regulated liquor stores and bags used by soup kitchens. Those buying groceries with food stamps are also exempt from paying the fee.
Paper bags were also included in the bill, sponsors said, because they have an environmental impact; if paper bags were not included, shoppers would simply switch from plastic to paper, resulting in no change in overall waste. The legislation, modeled on similar laws in California and Washington, D.C., encountered an unusual amount of resistance and resulted in what council members said was one of the closest votes in years.
In New York City, the Sanitation Department has said it collects roughly 10 billion single-use plastic bags a year.
For more information please click here.
NACO Summit Focuses on Jails and Mental Health
Teams from 50 counties across the country convened at a Stepping Up Summit to discuss mental health issues in county jails.
The summit was sponsored by the National Association of Counties (NACo), the American Psychiatric Association Foundation, and the Council of State Governments Justice Center. Teams from 50 counties heard from experts in mental health services, criminal justice and administration on the local, state and federal levels, plus participants in the mental health system and their families. Stepping Up is part of an overall effort to encourage counties to divert jail inmates with mental illness to settings where inmates' underlying conditions can be addressed.
See more at www.naco.org/articles/stepping-summit-gathers-fifty-counties-talk-mental-health-and-jails#sthash.vMXyeo43.dpuf.
|Training & Funding Opportunities
Water Infrastructure Grants & Upcoming Webinar
The Environmental Facilities Corporation (EFC) announced that with the enacted state budget providing an additional $100 million this year in grants, it can now broaden eligibility for wastewater projects and provide a total of $175 million in grants through Round 2 of the NYS Water Grants program. In addition, the maximum grant amount for drinking water projects has been increased from $2 million to $3 million or 60% of eligible projects costs, whichever is less.
To accommodate this expansion, the Round 2 application deadline has been extended from April 15, 2016 to June 20, 2016, with applications to be submitted no later than 5:00 p.m. EFC will be expediting evaluation of the applications to ensure that grants may be awarded shortly thereafter. Applications are available at www.efc.ny.gov/NYSWaterGrants.
EFC will host an informational webinar on May 11, 2016 at 11 AM to provide an overview of the broadened program and grant application process. To register, click here.
Municipalities with questions are encouraged to e-mail NYSWaterGrants@efc.ny.gov or call EFC at 518-402-6924.
Upcoming Webinar on Solar Land Leasing and Municipal Best Practices
As New York continues to support investment in clean energy in the state and in response to the Public Service Commission's Community Shared Solar and Commercial Solar Programs, new opportunities to lease, own and invest in solar power are emerging. For many land owners, offers from solar developers interested in accessing tracts of land have raised questions about what to take into account when considering a solar lease. This webinar aims to provide data-driven best practice recommendations and address frequently asked questions from land owners seeking to enter into solar leasing contracts, as well questions from municipalities on the growth of solar, land use, and important local policies.
The NY Energy Democracy Alliance and the NY Solar Energy Industries Association are partnering to present the webinar on May 11, 2016 at 10:00am.
To Register please use this link! Inquiries should be directed to Adam Flint, CoShare Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Community Choice Aggregation Webinar
Local governments across New York State are now encouraged by the Public Service Commission to create energy aggregation programs for residential and other customers. The PSC hopes Community Choice Aggregation programs will help bring better supply pricing and also empower communities to actively plan and develop their energy future through the Commission's Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) priorities.
Last week New York became the seventh state to allow Community Choice Aggregation (CCA), a program by which municipalities aggregate local consumers and go to bid for energy supply. Residential and small commercial accounts are included automatically, unless the customer "opts out". Other consumers can join if they want to by "opting in."
Please join us for an upcoming informational webinar presented by MEGA, the Municipal Electric & Gas Alliance on Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) on Thursday, May 12th at noon.