Local governments have not seen an increase in state funding in about a decade, Mayor Rich David, president of the New York State Conference of Mayors explained.
Then last year, the state withheld 5% of its funding to local governments, due to losses sustained from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mayor David says for his city in Binghamton, that is a loss of about $460,000.
“The overwhelming majority of all of our budgets goes to public safety so you’re talking about police officers, firefighters, paramedics, the people who collect your garbage and are responsible for sanitation,” David said. “This is not the time in the middle of a health crisis to be making cuts in those areas.”
Local governments receive funding from three main sources, property taxes, sales tax and state aid.
With all three funding streams impacted by the pandemic, the city of Binghamton was not the only local government that had to make spending cuts.
“In my county’s case we initiated early retirement incentives for 103 positions that are either being left unfunded or were eliminated entirely," Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro explained. “While also taking on millions of dollars of new expense for this responsibility,” he continued referring to costs associated with the pandemic.
A similar story played out in Broome County.
“We’ve probably had to reduce our funding to contract agencies this year by 50%,” Broome County Executive Jason Garner said. “And we’ve had to cut our community college contributions by a pretty significant amount as well.”
For this next year’s budget, the governor is proposing funding cuts anywhere from 2.5% to 20%, depending on how much money the state receives in federal aid.
David insisted that this could not happen, pointing to how the state has received federal dollars since the start of the pandemic but local governments have been left out.
“The state of New York has already received billions of dollars of funding in previous rounds of COVID funding,” David said. “Yet the $15 billion request never changes.”
David says they are also pushing to make sure any direct federal dollars they receive does not replace state aid.