Counties throughout the state have been sounding off about the fiscal strain they face from unfunded state mandates – requirements that local governments foot the bills for state programs.
Rockland County officials have joined the chorus, saying the 2013 budget includes nearly $30 million in increased mandate costs, according to an article on LoHud.com by Laura Incalcaterra. County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef said because of the mandates the county will not be able to adhere to the state’s 2 percent tax cap, which limits the annual increase in a municipality’s tax levy to 2 percent, excluding some costs.
In the exclusive interview with The Journal News, Vanderhoef said half of the $30 million is for increases in the contribution the county must make to cover state pension plan costs; $9 million is to cover increases at the county jail, where the state mandated the hiring of an additional 15 guards this year; and $3 million is for increases to Medicaid, a program for state residents who can’t afford medical care.
When added to funding requests from local non-profit agencies, Vanderhoef said the increase rises to $43 million, as compared to costs in the 2012 budget, and property taxes would have to be increased 50 percent – $300 for most homeowners – to cover the costs.
“We’re not going to do that,” Vanderhoef said. “That’s obviously out of the question. There have got to be cuts because you can’t increase property taxes 50 percent.”
Rockland is the latest community to detail how mandates are affecting finances. According to the New York State Association of Counties, the mandates can add up to a sizable chunk of budgets and are a primary driver of tax increases. The group recently released a report of suggested mandate reforms and also warned that because of mandates, including special education pre-kindergarten spending, indigent defense and pensions, among other areas – budgets of counties are being pushed beyond the tax cap limits.
To read Incalcaterra’s complete article, click here.
Photo: File photo of Rockland County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef (Peter Carr/The Journal News)