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City joins effort to cut mandates

While support is growing in the new state administration for a limit on property tax increases, concern is rising in at least three Western New York counties that unfunded state mandates will push up local taxes.

Genesee, Wyoming and Orleans counties have railed against a tax limit without relief from state mandates that raise costs for local government.

The City of Batavia has joined the campaign, which is taking particular aim at the increase in pension costs. The city faces a $361,000 increase over last year's payments to the state retirement system.

The City Council resolution echoes comments by the three rural counties that "a property tax cap will only work if it is simultaneously accompanied by a repeal of current state mandates that require local governments to increase spending and property taxes."

The State Senate already has passed a property tax measure that would limit annual increases to 2 percent or 120 percent of the consumer price index, whichever is lower.

The state Conference of Mayors and the New York State Association of Counties oppose any tax limit without mandate relief. They claim that nine unfunded state mandates -- ranging from Medicaid to pensions -- continue to push property taxes higher.

In Wyoming County, those mandates cost 112 percent of the county's $14.6 million property tax levy. Orleans, facing a reduction in personnel costs, including up to 37 positions to be eliminated, can't overcome huge increases led by a $2 million loss in nursing home operations where the Medicaid reimbursement rate falls far short of operating expenses.

Both Genesee County Manager Jay A. Gsell and Batavia City Manager Jason R. Molino are predicting difficulties in the next year's budgets.

The city's fiscal year begins April 1, and a proposed budget must be released later this month.

Gsell said Genesee County, which is on a calendar year, faces an increasingly difficult year with less state aid, delayed state and federal reimbursements, and rising contributions to the state retirement system. Gsell noted that projected spending increases for this year total $2.4 million.

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