The New York State Association of Counties signaled today that looming multi-billion-dollar budget gaps for counties are being caused by state-mandated programs, and there’s no way they can be turned around without action from the state.
The county cost for nine state-mandated programs will increase by $244 million, but allowable growth under the state’s annual cap on increases in the property-tax levy totals $114 million. The deficit doesn’t include the general cost of inflation, salaries, health insurance, fuel and other county government expenses.
“Based on current trends, county expenditures will continue to outpace revenues unless there is continued and meaningful mandate relief provided by the State,” NYSAC President Edward A. Diana, Orange County executive, said in a statement.
The looming deficit is forcing county leaders to make difficult decisions, Diana said. “Local leaders are draining down their reserves and gutting local programs to balance their 2013 budgets. Very soon there will be nothing left to cut. At the same time, our costs are pre-programmed by the State and will automatically rise,” he said.
The Association of Counties acknowledged that Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Legislature have made some changes that will reduce outyear costs for pensions and Medicaid, but the group believes it is not enough.
“The fact remains that we are on an unsustainable trajectory in the way we pay for State programs delivered locally. Unless and until there is a serious collaborative effort to enact mandate relief, essential local programs and services will be sacrificed,” said Stephen J. Acquario, executive director of the association.
NYSAC released a new report last week with 51 recommendations for reducing the cost of state and county government.
This is another chart from the organization that compares the annual growth of state-mandated programs to inflation: