The County Perspective: County Gov't Month, State Budget and Local Property Taxes

Week of March 27, 2017
Time for County Officials to Weigh In on the State Budget
With seven working days until the beginning of the 2017-18 State Fiscal Year, joint legislative budget conference committees are negotiating details of the final state budget, Counties are encouraged to contact their state representatives with their concerns and to contact the members of conference committees on issues of concern to all counties.
Among other priorities, Counties are calling on members of both houses to REJECT proposed cost shifts to public health and social services. These cost shifts will increase costs to counties and property taxpayers. They are also reminding lawmakers of the importance of Modernizing Internet Sales Taxes and the 911 Surcharge to keep our emergency dispatch centers up to date with new technologies. 
Here is a link to a series of issue Fact Sheets that NYSAC is conveying to the state conference committees.
Why the State Budget Matters to County Property Taxes
As State Lawmakers and Governor Andrew Cuomo convene in Albany this week to negotiate the final terms of the 2017-18 New York State Budget, it is important to recognize how the decisions made in the State Capitol have a direct impact on county property taxpayers.
Governor Cuomo and the State Legislature continue to highlight that the largest tax burden New Yorkers face is the property tax. County leaders agree 100 percent - property taxes are too high in New York, especially compared to other states. From the county perspective, a primary reason for high property taxes is that counties in New York are required to pay for State services and programs that other counties across the nation do not. If you want to compare our property tax rates to other states, then you also need to compare how New York State mandates directly impact local spending and revenues.
Since the Great Recession, the state has shifted nearly $400 million annually in social service program costs from the state to county governments. This does not include more than $90 million in proposed new state cost shifts to foster care and other social service programs contained in the pending state budget proposal in Albany.
There are also two major state spending proposals in the state budget that counties must finance up front and then seek partial state reimbursement for later. First is an expansion of indigent defense services and eligibility. Second is a proposal to raise the age of criminal responsibility. While counties may support some of the policy goals of these state proposals, local taxpayers should not be the ones who ultimately pay for the expansion and the timing of these programs.
The proposed expansion of indigent defense services for the poor (which the state says they will fully reimburse) is combined with a doubling of the income eligibility threshold (which the state will not pay for) that will require counties (outside NYC) to pay $300 million or more per year for the new services. This is on top of the nearly $400 million that county taxpayers are already required to spend for indigent defense. Raising the age of criminal responsibility is expected to increase county and New York City costs by more than $100 million annually (at least $22 million in unreimbursed costs to counties outside NYC). Together, counties will need to pay for nearly $320 million annually in new costs and then seek partial reimbursement from the state later as proposed in the state budget.
To read the full statement by NYSAC Executive Director, click here.
April is National County Government Month
National County Government Month (NCGM), held each April, is an annual celebration of county government. Since 1991, the National Association of Counties has encouraged counties to actively promote the services and programs they offer. Counties can schedule activities any time during the month. NCGM is an excellent opportunity for your county to highlight effective county programs and raise public awareness and understanding about the various services provided to the community.
For resources from NYSAC, click here.
For resources from the National Association of Counties, click here.
2017 County Finance School: May 2-4
The County Finance School is a 3-day training event held annually in May at the Sheraton Syracuse University Hotel in Syracuse, New York.  This year, County Finance School is May 2-4.

The School features workshops developed specifically for county finance officials and the growing educational needs of the local government community. Workshops for 2017 include Internet Sales Tax Overview, Property Assessed Clean Energy, Financing for Disaster Recovery Aid, Property Tax Cap Analysis, and The State of the Economy.

The County Finance School is co-sponsored through the generosity and expertise of the Office of the New York State Comptroller and features a number of OSC/CPE accredited sessions.  The New York State County Treasurers and Finance Officers Association assists with the conference as well.
The full agenda and registration will be available soon.
State Legislative Update: 
Senate and Assembly Budget Conference Committees Meet, Internal Negotiations Continue
The Governor, Senate and Assembly have yet to announced table targets, allocating specific amounts of funding to be spent for each policy area. However, legislative leaders have also alluded to an on-time budget. With just a week left there are many issues with no consensus, including "raise the age," tuition free college, ridesharing legislation, water infrastructure, and transportation funds. It is unclear when lawmakers will finalize their negotiations. A budget is not due until Friday, March 31st. If negotiations conclude with consensus this would be the seventh consecutive on-time budget.
NYSAC staff met with both members of the Senate and Assembly as well as central staff to discuss counties concerns with the items in the budget. County leaders are encouraging state lawmakers to fight for:
  • Extend the 9-1-1 Public Safety Surcharge from contracted (postpaid) cell phone devices to prepaid devices.
  • Provide state funding for District Attorney Salaries.
  • Provide mandate relief for Indigent Legal Defense Services.
  • Fund the costs associated with Raising the Age of Criminal Responsibly
  • Modernize the state's sales tax collection process for tangible personal property purchased over the Internet.
To view NYSAC's fact sheets regarding these position and more please visit our website:
Local Leaders Gather in Albany to Push for Indigent Defense Change
On March 22, 2017, local leaders gathered in Albany to educate state lawmakers on the need for indigent defense system reform. These local leaders along the New York State Association of Counties continue to urge state lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo to agree to a budget that includes the state assuming partial cost of indigent legal defense services. This solution was provided for and passed unanimously by the State legislature but stalled due to a gubernatorial veto which cited the cost as well as the need to include the funding in the "context" of the budget.
The lobby day takeaway- $370 million more in State relief is needed for the legal services for the poor, which would satisfy a 1963 Supreme Court ruling. The $152 billion Executive budget proposal does include a plan that would expand a recent state settlement that includes public defender case cap loads. NYSAC finds fault with this, since it would require the counties to put up the expanded indigent defense services cost.
NYSAC supports the Assembly budget proposal which provides expanded indigent defense services and provides counties reimbursement for current program costs. NYSAC also supports the eligibility guidelines proposed by the State Senate. When fully implemented these proposals would create a strong indigent defense system and provide over $200 million in property tax relief to residents.
House Pulls ACA Repeal and Replace Bill Due to Lack of Support
On Friday last week, the U.S. House of Representatives pulled legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act before it could come to the Floor for a vote. The bill was scheduled for a Thursday vote but was postponed because of lack of support at that time. During the week the bill was amended 11 times to sway reluctant lawmakers to support. The Congressional Budget Office provided a new estimate of costs and health insurance coverage for 4 of the 11 amendments (including the New York State specific amendment that would end the state practice of charging counties a share of State Medicaid costs). The analysis maintained its prior estimates that 24 million people would potentially lose their health insurance coverage and the original savings of $337 billion in federal savings over the next decade was lowered to $150 billion.
The Executive, through the Department of Health and Human Services, continues to take administrative actions to reverse parts of the ACA they find most objectionable including effectively repealing the individual mandate and beginning work to limit the types of health insurance coverages that insurers must provide. A major deadline comes up in May for the ACA when insurance companies must commit to whether they intend on offering health insurance coverage on the federal and state exchanges in 2018. Several major carriers have already telegraphed significant concerns about continuing their participation due to the uncertainty regarding the federal commitment to the underlying law and some adverse risk selection that has occurred to date (more sicker people signing up for coverage than anticipated).
Will You Take NYMIR's Distracted Driving Prevention Challenge?
April is Distracted Driving Month, and the New York Municipal Insurance Reciprocal (NYMIR) has posed a challenge to NYMIR counties and local governments.

Nationally, distracted driving has been the leading cause of motor vehicle crashes. In 2014, the Official U.S. Government website for Distracted Driving reported that 3,179 people were killed and 431,000 injured in moving vehicle accidents. Vehicle claims represent a significant concern for insurers and local governments, and preventing distracted driving can boost your risk management efforts.

NYMIR is holding risk management seminars to provide train-the-trainer instruction for distracted driving classes to prepare your own employees as instructors. These training sessions can be provided by NYMIR Risk Management staff either regionally or at your county.

For more information contact NYMIR Vice President of Marketing and Member Services at 518-292-0057.
Seeking Nominations for Excellence in Public Service Awards
On Monday, May 22, 2017 the New York State Academy for Public Administration (SAPA) will be hosting its 6th annual Public Service Excellence Award Program.
Counties are invited to nominate an individual or team for this award. Applications are due April 10, 2017. Awardees will be announced on May 3, with a ceremony to be held on May 22.
The Public Service Excellence Award is a great way to recognize an outstanding individual or team of individuals in your agency who exemplify the best of public service in New York State. Agencies and local governments may nominate both a team and an individual if they choose. For a copy of the nomination form, please email