Editorial: GOP State Senate blueprint for NY should include equitable AIM funding for villages

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 18 January 2018 at 7:52 am

The Republicans in the State Senate last week presented a “Blueprint for a Stronger New York.” The state senators in the majority want to reduce property taxes, especially for senior citizens.

Their proposal: freeze school taxes for the elderly and eliminate those taxes for seniors in 10 years.

The Senate majority also wants to make the tax cap permanent, limit state spending increases to 2 percent annually and boost the property tax rebate by 25 percent.

The blueprint falls short, mainly by neglecting to address that AIM (Aid and Incentives to Municipalities) funding from the state has been frozen for several years. That $715 million goes to cities, towns and villages. Cities get 90 percent of the money. The town and villages get morsels.

Cities get an average of $277 per capita from the state while the towns and villages only get $7 per capita. (Most of the smaller cities get about $100 to $150 per capita with bigger cities getting much more.) The cities are population centers and are public service-intensive, with police, parks, streets, fire and ambulance, water and sewer, cemeteries, and other services.

Towns don’t tend to offer services to that level, but villages often do – yet there is little state aid to help with the cost. That is a main driver in the villages sky-high tax rates, especially in Orleans County where the situation is compounded by a small sliver of the local sales tax going to villages. More sales tax would bring down the village tax rates in Orleans, but county officials say it would then push up the county rate.

Giving the villages AIM funding at even $100 per capita (still about a third of the city average) would bring down village tax rates by about 20 to 25 percent in Orleans County. In Albion and Medina, the largest local villages – each with about 6,000 people – $100 of AIM per person would be about $600,000 per village.

I would argue villages with police officers should get far more in AIM (because they are saving the state from adding troopers or the county from adding more deputies). These villages also have a higher concentration of poverty and elderly residents.

Consider that the Village of Albion and its 6,056 residents receives $38,811 in AIM funding. Salamanca in Cattaraugus County is nearly the same size with 5,815 people. Salamanca gets $928,131 in AIM funding. The difference: Salamanca is a city.

It’s disappointing that more AIM funding didn’t even make get a mention in the “Blueprint for a Stronger New York.”

If the State Senate Republicans were serious about easing the taxes of some of the poorest senior citizens in the state, the GOP would push for more AIM for the villages.

If the GOP wanted to make rural New York more business friendly, it would push for more AIM for villages. Right now, many new businesses set up just outside villages, avoiding the village tax while still tapping village water and sewer lines, and having access to their population centers.

If the GOP was serious about stemming the population decline in our small counties, it would insist on more AIM funding for villages.

If the GOP wanted to put more money in the pockets of young families, it would demand more AIM funding for villages.

The State Senate Republicans, who represent many villages, should consider the structural discrimination imposed on the villages by the state, which redistributes so little in AIM to villages.

Give the chart below a look and ask how villages are supposed to function, providing critical government services without overwhelming taxpayers? The crumbs of AIM funding force villages to resort to property taxes for most of their revenue.

These villages can’t even get on the radar of the state politicians. There is no plan for the 2 million village residents in New York, who are about 10 percent of the state’s population.

City (County) State aid Population Per Capita
Salamanca (Cattaraugus) $928,131 5,815 $159.61
Dunkirk (Chautauqua) $1,575,527 12,563 $125.41
Batavia (Genesee) $1,750,975 15,465 $113.22
Sherrill (Oneida) $372,689 3,071 $121.35
Norwich (Chenango) $1,089,279 7,190 $151.50
Waverliet (Albany) $1,210,193 10,254 $118.02
Cortland (Cortland) $2,018,330 11,183 $180.48
Beacon (Dutchess) $1,537,478 15,541 $98.93
Gloversville (Fulton) $2,302,592 15,665 $146.99
Johnstown (Fulton) $1,388,910 8,743 $158.86
Canandaigua (Ontario) $1,119,304 10,545 $106.15
Geneva (Ontario) $1,942,613 13,261 $146.49
Rensselaer (Rensselaer) $1,137,317 9,392 $121.09
Mechanicville (Saratoga) $662,392 5,196 $127.48
Ogdensburg (St. Lawrence) $1,708,659 11,128 $153.55
Village (County) State aid Population Per Capita
Albion (Orleans) $38,811 6,056 $6.41
Medina (Orleans) $45,523 6,065 $7.51
Holley (Orleans) $17,786 1,811 $9.82
Lyndonville (Orleans) $6,251 838 $7.46
Brockport (Monroe) $110,171 8,366 $13.17
Fredonia (Chautauqua) $89,140 11,230 $7.94
East Aurora (Erie) $50,569 6,236 $8.11
Le Roy (Genesee) $34,391 4,391 $7.83
Geneseo (Livingston) $72,701 8,031 $9.05
Whitesboro (Oneida) $73,012 3,772 $19.36
Cobleskill (Schoharie) $36,461 4,678 $7.79
Massena (St. Lawrence) $132,671 10,936 $12.13
Potsdam (St. Lawrence) $111,864 9,428 $11.87
Bath (Steuben) $103,906 5,786 $17.96
Monticello (Sullivan) $46,903 6,726 $6.97
Newark (Wayne) $65,833 9,145 $7.20

Source: New York State Division of Budget for state aid. Population is from U.S. Census Bureau, 2010 population count. Orleans Hub calculated the per capita numbers.

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