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Maziarz says state aid to villages ‘incredibly unfair’

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 17 February 2014 at 12:00 am

Small cities get far more in aid per capita

State Sen. George Maziarz calls the disparity in state aid to villages and small cities “unbelievably unfair.” Maziarz has seen the Jan. 27 article in the Orleans Hub that details the vast difference in funding from the state for small cities versus villages that provide similar services. (Click here to see the original article.)

For example, Salamanca in Cattaraugus County gets $928,131 in state aid for a city of 5,815 people. That’s $159.61 per person.

But the village of Albion, population 6,056, gets only $38,811 or $6.41 a person. Medina and its 6,065 residents receive $45,523 in state aid or $7.51 per person.

Maziarz and staff from the State Senate are researching how the state came up with a formula for distributing the funding to cities, towns and villages. The formula for Aid and Incentives to Muncipalities or AIM goes back before Maziarz joined the Senate in 1995.

“We’re certainly going to take a look at it,” he said.

State Assemblyman Steve Hawley also has Assembly staff looking at the formula, trying to determine the state’s rationale for distributing the aid, said Eileen Banker, Hawley’s chief of staff.

Village of Albion Mayor Dean Theodorakos said villages should be receiving significantly more in state funding. Many villages like Albion operate much like cities with police departments, water and sewer plants, and many other services. The villages also are challenged with aging infrastructure that is costly to maintain.

Theodorakos has reached out to the New York Conference of Mayors, an association of villages and cities. He wants the group to advocate for a change in the state aid distribution so villages receive more dollars.

The tiny state aid dollars is a prime factor for the villages’ high tax rates. Albion’s village rate is $16.86 per $1,000 of assessed property while Medina property owners pay a $16.45 rate. If those villages received $160 per person like they do in Salamanca, Albion and Medina would each receive nearly $1 million in state aid. That would be enough to cut the village taxes by about 40 percent.

The City of Batavia in Genesee County receives $1,750,975 in state aid for its 15,465 residents or $113.22 per person. City taxpayers pay a $9.29 rate per $1,000, far less than in the Orleans villages.

Village taxpayers have the added pain of paying town taxes. City residents don’t pay taxes to towns as well. That additional $3 or $4 rate means village residents in Albion and Medina are paying about $20 combined in village and town taxes, about twice the rate in the city of Batavia.

Medina Mayor Andrew Meier said the high rates in the villages are driving out residents, businesses and investment. Medina officials are looking at dissolving the village to reduce taxes and the disparity in tax burden between village and the surrounding area outside the village boundaries.