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News station in Buffalo highlights how state’s AIM program is grossly unfair to villages

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 28 February 2018 at 10:15 am

A news station in Buffalo has published a piece on the state’s inequitable AIM program, which grossly favors cities over villages and towns. Click here to see “Short Changed: How a State Aid Program is Generous to Cities, Stingy to Towns and Villages.”

WGRZ on Tuesday focused an investigative report on Aid and Incentives for Municipalities, and how the $714 million in state revenues for municipalities are not distributed on a per capita basis among cities, villages and towns.

WGRZ highlighted the disparity between two neighboring communities in Chautauqua County. In Fredonia, the state gives $89,000 in AIM funding for the 11,000 village residents. Dunkirk, only a few miles away, has 12,000 residents but gets $1.6 million in AIM. Dunkirk happens to be a city.

In Orleans Hub’s nearly five years of existence we have frequently written about the state’s unfair AIM program and how it offers crumbs to villages and towns, while propping up cities. The lack of AIM is one of the main culprits in why the villages in Orleans County have among the highest tax rates in the region.

We don’t begrudge the cities their money. The densely populated areas deserve more AIM because those municipalities bear the brunt of providing so many public services with police, water, sewer, fire protection, streets and other many programs. The villages and cities also have a higher concentration of poor residents, aging housing stock and century-old infrastructure. The cities and villages are centers for civic life with government buildings, schools, churches and other tax-exempt properties.

Villages function as mini-cities but only get a tiny fraction of what a city gets per capita in AIM. 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 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.

The lack of AIM is particularly painful for a county like Orleans, where there are no cities. We don’t get at least one municipality with the resources to offer the park upgrades, well-maintained streets and sidewalks, and other “curb appeal” that attracts residents and businesses. We do what we can on a shoe string, and still have crushing taxes because almost the entire village and town budgets are on the backs of the local taxpayers. In cities, residents only cover a fraction of the budgets because the state aid pays for so many services and programs.

It’s disappointing this clear inequity and structural discrimination against village and town residents doesn’t get mentioned much in the media or by state legislators. It should be a top priority and a frequent call for reform.

We are glad to see WGRZ shined a light on the issue.

We’ve published the following chart many times in recent years. Here it is again. You should feel your blood boil if you live in Orleans County. Equitable AIM is the transformative change we need to help stop the population losses, the shrinking tax assessments and other decline we see in our communities.

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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