Our local elected officials have loudly and frequently complained about unfunded mandates for years.
They also would be right to complain about the general lack of funding from the state and federal governments.
According to a report issued Wednesday by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, local governments are increasingly turning to local tax revenue to make up for sluggish growth in federal and state aid.
From 2001 through 2011, total federal and state aid grew at an average of 2.2 percent annually, slower than the rate of inflation – 2.4 percent.
Federal aid to New York’s local governments increased by about 3.5 percent on an average annual basis. Much of the recent growth, though, was due to temporary funds from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act from 2008 to 2011.
During the period of 2001 to 2011, the report noted, the state’s funding to communities went up about 1.2 percent on an average annual basis.
The report also noted state aid comes with strings attached, denying local governments flexibility to spend their money on what they want.
Officials in Fulton County have pointed out about 80 percent of the tax-levy is mandated.
Yet, the comptroller’s report notes, the relative share of federal and state aid as a percentage of total local government revenues decreased from 2001 to 2011 – from 22 percent to 20 percent.
The state is not only forcing mandates on local governments and raising costs, it is exacerbating the problem by being stingy with its aid. While local officials look to sales and property taxes to make up the difference, the state – and the federal government – get to keep their tax increases lower by making someone else the bad guy.
Local officials should press state representatives for more aid. The state and federal governments should be willing to pay for programs they require on the local level.