Monday, February 27, 2012
(New Paltz, NY - 1:00 PM) – Scott B. Samuelson, Chairman of the Sullivan County Legislature provided both verbal and written testimony before the New York State Mandate Relief Council this afternoon at SUNY New Paltz. “New York State is at a critical point in our State’s history, and more importantly our economic future. Counties can no longer use local property tax dollars for local needs, such as road and bridge maintenance and public safety, because the funds are consumed by State Mandates. If the State wants true property tax relief, they must let local officials set the property tax levy for local priorities, rather than paying for State dictated programs,” said Samuelson.
“Simply capping property taxes will not reduce the cost of government and the State mandated programs and services imposed on property taxpayers. Ironically, it preserves the status quo – that New Yorkers pay the highest property taxes in the nation. The State must reform the service delivery system to effectively reduce property taxes, and fully fund their mandates from State funds, not County property taxes,” added Samuelson.
Reducing property taxes has been a priority for County leadership for decades. This has always been contingent on aggressive realignment of the service delivery structure in New York State. Counties need authority to manage State programs locally to root out waste, fraud and abuse, and run programs more efficiently.
60 years ago, County Government was very different than today – addressing needs such as roads and bridges, public safety, economic development, operating and maintaining parks, and caring for citizens through basic quality of life programs. Gradually, as the State expanded public services, it imposed the cost of these programs on the local property taxpayers. Medicaid was the first and remains the biggest State imposed property tax funded mandate:
The 2012 Sullivan County Tax Levy totals $49,877,857. Of that amount, 93.2 % is mandated. County government has little or no control over these costs. Sullivan County’s Medicaid bill will be $21,358,117 in 2012, as mandated by the State. In 2012, about 42.8% of the County property taxes paid will pay just one bill – Medicaid. Three central program groups, including Public Assistance, Safety Net and Child Welfare will cost the County $8,033,338, which is 16.1 % of this year’s tax levy. Additional mandates, including Early Intervention services, probation, indigent defense, jail staffing levels, and youth detention, are projected to cost the County $17,058,763 in 2012, which is 34.2 % of the tax levy.
2012 Sullivan County Tax Levy
The New York State Association of Counties (NYSAC) has provided detailed background and thirty-seven (37) specific mandate recommendations regarding Medicaid, as well as, Public Assistance/Safety Net; Child Welfare; Preschool Special Education; Early Intervention; Indigent Defense; Probation; Youth Detention; Pensions; and other mandate relief ideas. I respectfully encourage the mandate relief council to support the complete state takeover of all Medicaid costs first and foremost, and I support the mandate relief ideas that have been submitted on behalf of all counties by NYSAC.
“Clearly, Sullivan County simply can’t sustain the current levels of services that our citizenry deserves, due to the fact that 93.2% of our property tax levy is consumed to pay the bills for the State’s programs. And, these bills are projected to grow at a rate that is significantly larger than the revenues that would be realized, if Sullivan County were to conform to the property tax cap law in 2013 and beyond. Governor Cuomo has proposed a “hard cap” on County property taxpayers share of the growth of the Medicaid program costs. While I welcome the Governor’s proposal, it is only a start in the right direction. A “hard cap” will result in Sullivan County funding nearly $22 million of locally generated tax revenues to pay for a program that is in reality a federal and state partnership, except in New York and North Carolina. The “hard cap” is a significant first-step; however, our goal must be the complete takeover of all Medicaid costs by the State government, with New York State then joining forty-eight other states in our nation. Once New York State assumes all Medicaid costs at the state level, property taxes will be stabilized, and likely significantly reduced in Sullivan County, and throughout the state. In fact, Sullivan County’s property tax levy would likely be reduced by more than one-third with the state assuming all Medicaid costs – just that one program alone,” concluded Samuelson.
For more information, contact Scott Samuelson, 845-807-0435