Weekly Wire Week Ending July 21, 2016
Weekly Wire: Summer Edition - Tax Cap, Sales Tax, Fall Seminar, Mental Health, Energy, State Updates
Fall Seminar Agenda Available, Registration Open
NYSAC's Fall Seminar is the place for New York's county leaders to come together and share vital information, develop educational and operational strategies for success, and learn about the complex issues impacting counties.
For a glimpse of the presentations and workshop lineup, click here.
The 2016 NYSAC Fall Seminar will be held on September 19-21 in Niagara Falls at the Conference & Event Center of Niagara Falls. Hotel accommodations will be at the Sheraton at the Falls Hotel across the street from the Conference Center.
Early Bird registration rates are available until August 12th. For more information and to register, click here.
The three-day training program will include a full schedule of workshops, standing committee meetings, and presentations. The slate of workshop topics includes the heroin epidemic, 9-1-1 funding, new jail construction, safe drinking water, new apps for county communication, automobile fleet management, meeting new compliance demands, succession planning, and international economic development.
County Treasurers Meet to Discuss Key Priorities, Concerns
County Treasurers from dozens of counties met at their annual meeting in Wyoming County this week. There, the Treasurers discussed key priorities and concerns facing the group and their roles as the chief fiscal officers of counties in New York. Cheryl D. Mayer, Wyoming County Treasurer and President of the County Treasurers' and Finance Officers' Association hosted the group in Java Center at the Beaver Hollow Conference Center. The group discussed several issues including cash management, investments, streamlining property tax collections, addressing "zombie" properties and improving services for tax payers.
The group meets multiple times each year to address key financial issues facing counties and to develop solutions that help improve county fiscal management.
Confronting Heroin in Our Counties
NYSAC has released a new report, A Primer on NY's Heroin Epidemic, which examines the challenges of addressing the heroin crisis in our counties.
Heroin and opioid use is a major health and safety crisis around the world. Heroin and opioid use is a problem across demographic, economic, and geographic limitations. It effects individuals of every age, race and gender. The connection between prescription drugs and heroin stems from the abuse of prescription opiate pain killers, and is directly related to heroin's growth and popularity with young people. In order to combat this growing epidemic, local leaders must focus on prevention, increased access to treatment, expanded recovery options, and improved resources for law enforcement.
Read the NYSAC report: A Primer on NY's Heroin Epidemic
MEGA Advances Energy Aggregation Plan for Communities, Consumers
The Municipal Electric and Gas Alliance (MEGA), a purchasing consortium of more than 270 municipalities in upstate New York, has applied to the New York State Public Service Commission to approve the Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) program it has developed to guide MEGA member towns, villages and cities in helping consumers get better deals for electricity and natural gas services.
MEGA has worked for more than 18 months to develop Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) programs for its participants, following guidance from the PSC, said Ron Feldstein, MEGA's President and CEO. MEGA's is the first such plan submitted for NYSPSC approval.
"Once approved, MEGA's plan will be provided to interested municipalities as the basic 'road map' for developing local CCA programs," said Louise Gava, MEGA's CCA Project Leader. "Each municipality will be able to customize the plan to suit its needs and interests," she added. MEGA will also provide municipal leaders with a Data Protection Plan, a model local law, and other required information.
CCA was authorized by the PSC in April, authorizing towns, villages and cities to adopt local laws to create their own CCA programs, and encouraging them to retain a CCA Administrator to handle competitive bidding and regulatory compliance, and to oversee supplier services. MEGA would perform that role for interested municipalities.
The PSC envisions CCA as an integral component of Governor Cuomo's Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) initiative. To learn more, please contact Louise Gava, MEGA's CCA Project Leader at email@example.com
Second Quarter Sales Tax Revenues Show Continued Volatility
The 2nd quarter sales tax results reported by the State Department of Taxation and Finance continue to show a volatile and uneven economic recovery in communities across the state.
Thirty-seven (37) counties collected less in the 2nd quarter of 2016 than they did in the same quarter last year. Total county collections (not including NYC) were down $9.7 million, or a -.5 percent over the same time last year. The range from the highest to lowest change in revenue was over 17 percent, from a low of -9.72 percent to a high of +7.5% over the same period last year. The average percent change per county was -.79 percent.
Motor fuel sales tax collections are down about $56 million in the first six months compared to last year, but that does not explain all of the low numbers.
Revenues for the first half of the year (from January to June 2016) are slightly better, but 23 counties still collected less in sales tax in the first 6 months than they collected in 2015. For the first half of the year, total county collections (not including NYC) are up $29 million, or .8 percent. The range was from -6.81 to +11.63 percent during this time period.
Collections for New York City, which had been experiencing stronger growth, show slower growth. Sales tax revenues in NYC are up only 1.8% in the 2nd quarter and 2.4% for the first 6 months of the year.
2017 Tax Cap Pegged at .68 Percent Over 2016 Levy
NYS Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli reported earlier this week that local property tax revenues will be capped at .6% percent over last year, based on low inflation.
County operations are funded through a combination of sales and property tax revenues. From those revenues, counties must first fund state mandated programs and services, the cost of which is growing faster than the revenue counties receive. Whatever is left then funds local quality of life programs like 9-1-1 emergency response, road patrols, aging and youth services, parks and recreation, and capital programs.
Counties remain concerned about the state and regional economy and its impact on our ability to serve in our communities.
In the past five years, counties have sold assets and depleted reserves to meet the state's property tax cap requirements. The low sales and property tax revenues announced in the past few days will require counties to further reduce local programs and services as they put together their 2017 spending plans.
Crackdown on K2
On Thursday, July 14 Governor Cuomo announced a new series of aggressive enforcement actions to combat the illegal sale of K2 and other synthetic drugs. The State Department of Health's Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement, in partnership with the New York State Police, will step up enforcement efforts in communities across the state to crack down on the illegal sale of K2.
The state will increase state police presence to ensure that businesses fully comply with all applicable New York State laws, including the 2015 emergency regulations banning the manufacture, sale, and distribution of synthetic drugs. New York will vigorously pursue all available civil, criminal, and administrative remedies against any business or business owner found to be manufacturing, possessing for sale, or selling illegal synthetic drugs.
Drought Watch Issued for New York
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) issued a drought watch for the entire state of New York following consultation with the State Drought Management Task Force and Federal partner agencies. According to Commissioner Seggos, while most public water supplies are still generally normal throughout the state, below normal precipitation over the last 9 months, low stream flows, and reduced groundwater levels have prompted the need for this action. Residents throughout the state are encouraged to conserve water whenever possible during the coming months.
A watch is the first of four levels of state drought advisories ("watch," "warning," "emergency" and "disaster"). There are no statewide mandatory water use restrictions in place under a drought watch. However, local public water suppliers may require such measures depending upon local needs and conditions. The last drought watch in New York State was issued in 2002.
For more information, please see this DEC press release.
House Takes First Step Toward Mental Health Reform
On July 6, the House voted 422-2 to approve a long-stalled bill that attempts to overhaul the nation's mental health system. Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.), a clinical psychologist, has been working on the bill - Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act (H.R. 2646) - since the Newtown, Conn. shooting in December 2012.
The overwhelming bipartisan support for this bill comes after intense negotiations and multiple iterations leading to a much scaled-back product
In a letter to House leadership, NACo supported H.R. 2646 but reiterated that it is just a "first step in mental health reform." The budget-neutral measure creates a new assistant secretary position at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to focus exclusively on mental health and substance abuse issues. It authorizes grant programs for community mental health centers and reauthorizes existing programs at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), including the Community Mental Health Services and Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grants.
H.R. 2646 does not make significant changes to the Health Insurance and Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), but directs HHS to issue rules to clarify what information is allowed to be shared with family and caregivers under the existing law. The bill also adds requirements to strengthen federal parity law that requires insurers to cover mental health care in the same way they cover physical illnesses.
For more information, visit www.naco.org/articles/house-takes-its-first-step-mental-health-reform.
Water Fluoridation Equipment Grants Available This Summer
More people drink water during the hot summer months and the NYS fluoridation equipment grants ensure that communities can provide drinking water that is a healthy choice for bodies and teeth.
The funding opportunities from the NYS Department of Health support costs related to the construction, installation, repair, replacement, or upgrade of fluoride equipment in drinking water facilities. Both opportunities are now posted on the NYS Grants Gateway.
One opportunity supports municipalities with funding up to $50,000 for the planning and implementation of community water fluoridation. Component 1 (Grants Gateway # DOH01-DWF1R2-2016) will pay for development of an engineering report to initiate or maintain water fluoridation. Component 2 (Grants Gateway # DWF2R2-2016) will pay for the upgrade, replacement, repair or purchase of equipment to initiate or maintain water fluoridation.
The second opportunity (RFA- Grants Gateway # DOH01-DWF3R2-2016) supports municipalities seeking to upgrade, replace or repair existing water fluoridation equipment or install fluoridation systems in public water systems that have authorized the implementation of fluoridation. Applicants may request between $50,001 and $1 million in funding.
Applications for both components will be accepted until August 31, 2016.
More information on the grants and important dates can be found on the Department of Health website or by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.