Editorial: Increasing AIM funding would be big boost to poverty-stricken villages

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 9 January 2017 at 1:39 pm
File photo: A smashed sign shown in the winter of 2014 in the village of Albion is symbolic of the rough roads villages are charting due to miniscule aid from the state. Cities get far more in per capita funding than villages.

File photo: A smashed sign shown in the winter of 2014 in the village of Albion is symbolic of the rough roads villages are charting due to miniscule aid from the state. Cities get far more in per capita funding than larger villages despite providing similar services.

It’s a new year, a time of goals and initiatives to better ourselves, our community, our state and country.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivered a “State of the State” address today. He has put out at least 15 proposals in the past week or so. Cuomo says he wants to rev up the economy, help Middle Class families and improve infrastructure, among many issues. The governor and state legislators generally don’t have much to say about rural NY, especially Orleans County.

Orleans Hub has tried before to at least get our community on the radar screen of Cuomo and the State Legislature. We’re going to follow Cuomo’s lead in putting out proposals.

Our top issue is reforming the AIM program. The state sets aside $715 million in Aid and Incentives to Municipalities. Cities get almost all of that money, 90 percent, with a few crumbs for towns and villages.

For about three years, Orleans Hub has tried to highlight the alarming disparity in state aid between cities and villages. Some of the local Village Boards, Town Boards and the County Legislature passed resolutions in 2015, asking the State Legislature and governor to boost AIM (Aid and Incentives to Municipalities) for villages and craft a plan for a fairer distribution of the money.

Local elected officials seemed to forget about the issue last year, even though it’s a shocking form of structural discrimination that is a leading culprit in the sky-high village taxes around here.

The cities get a per capita of $277 per resident in AIM while villages and towns only get $7 per resident.

Consider that Albion (population 6,056) and Medina (population 6,065) receive $38,811 in AIM funding and $45,523, respectively. Sherrill, the state’s smallest city with 3,071 people in Oneida County, gets $372,689. Salamanca in Cattaraugus County is nearly the same size at Albion and Medina. Salamanca gets $928,131 for a city of 5,815 people.

If Albion and Medina received what Salamanca did in state aid, the two villages could cut their taxes by about 40 percent. No longer would these villages be near the top of the list for most oppressive tax burdens in the Finger Lakes and Western New York.

Medina and Albion also are high poverty communities, topping the 20 percent threshold. Normally that level of poverty would draw local and state action, a push for attention and resources. But not for Albion and Medina.

If the state gave Albion and Medina more AIM funding, even at $100 per resident, the residents in these poverty-stricken villages would get significant relief in their wallets. They would have more money to spend at local businesses, boosting our local economy. None of the state or regional poverty plans include our local village residents. The cities get all of the attention and resources.

Check out this chart to see the discrimination, and ask why doesn’t the governor, the State Legislature and our local political establishment fight for fairness? It’s discrimination, plain and simple.

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 in 2013-14 (The state aid numbers haven’t changed for several years.) Population is from U.S. Census Bureau, 2010 population count. Orleans Hub calculated the per capita numbers.

Orleans Hub would like to again challenge the local municipal officials to at least pass formal resolutions seeking a fairer distribution of AIM funds. The local officials should lobby, and do a public protest about the issue. I would suggest forming a village coalition and marching the length of the canal. That might be ambitious this year. So maybe just cover the length in Orleans, or Western New York with groups of residents, police officers, firefighters, children – who all are treated as second-class citizens by the AIM program. A march for fairness would generate some publicity and put pressure on the governor and state legislators.

But, first off, let’s start the year with resolutions demanding equity in state aid. Here is sample resolution that the local boards are welcome to use or tweak.

RESOLUTION No. 1, January 2017

WHEREAS, New York State provides $715 million in Aid and Incentives to Municipalities each year, and 90 percent of that goes to upstate cities;

WHEREAS, the AIM funding per capita is $277 per city resident and only $7 for residents in towns and villages;

WHEREAS, there are 549 villages with a combined population of 1,918,032 in New York State, including four (Albion, Holley, Lyndonville and Medina) in Orleans County with a population of 14,770;

WHEREAS, many villages wrestle with the same problems as cities, with aging infrastructure, blighted housing, abandoned commercial sites, brownfields and increased crime rates;

WHEREAS, villages are similar to cities with a high concentration of senior citizens and low-income families;

WHEREAS, villages mirror cities as centers for culture, civic and religious life, especially in rural counties;

WHEREAS, villages are like cities with many important community structures – churches, courthouses, schools and other public buildings – that do not pay taxes, shifting the tax burden for those sites to other residents in the village or city;

WHEREAS, the state’s tiny share of AIM funding for villages has put villages at a competitive disadvantage in attracting and retaining businesses and residents;

WHEREAS, the huge disparity in AIM funding between the cities and villages is a form of state-sponsored economic discrimination, resulting in much higher tax bills for village residents and a diminished quality of life;

WHEREAS, the erosion of the village tax base has shifted a greater burden of town, county and school district tax burden outside the village, punishing the outside-village residents as well;

WHEREAS, the high tax rates in the village encourage suburban sprawl and development of green space and farm land for housing tracts, industrial parks and “Big Box” stores;

WHEREAS, village residents are no less a New Yorker than a city resident;

RESOLVED, the Legislature/Town Board/Village Board/Board of Education, call on Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the State Legislature to adopt a fair formula for sharing AIM funding so village residents can enjoy municipal services and their homes without being taxed to death.

RESOLVED, that the clerk of the Legislature/Village Board/Town Board/Board of Education shall forward copies of this resolution to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, Senator Robert Ortt, Assemblyman Steve Hawley, Assemblyman Michael Norris, and all others deemed necessary and proper.

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