Yorktown councilman Nick Bianco is asking public officials to join his call for a moratorium on unfunded state mandates, which are too costly to the town.
Town clerk Alice Roker, supervisor Susan Siegel and councilman Terrence Murphy joined Bianco at a press conference on Wednesday in front of Town Hall to express their opinions in favor of a state relief.
According to the law, local governments and school districts cannot raise their annual property tax levies by more than 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower, beginning in 2012. While Bianco said he supports the tax cap, unfunded mandates would make it difficult to pass a budget this December. The cap can be overridden by a two-thirds majority of town board members who vote in favor.
Bianco said the prevailing wage has caused the town's refuse costs to go up from $2 million, over the last few years, to $3 million for 2012. That would mean that each homeowner would be paying $90 more a year.
"We already got a major problem in this town," he said. "If they put this moratorium in, we can probably knock this out by a million dollars."
In addition, the prevailing wage law increased the cost of a minor roof repair at the Yorktown Community and Cultural Center from $450 to $4,500 (10 times that amount), Siegel said.
Pursuant to the Wicks Law (a construction mandate which was put into place to promote competition and protect workers' rights) all construction jobs are subject to separate contracts. Because of that, the cost of building the town's new sewage treatment plant (Hallock's Mill) increased by about $6 million, Bianco said. Although, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection paid that amount, he said, residents are paying higher water rates as a result.
Bianco also cited numerous other such mandates, such as rising liability insurance rates, limitations on municipal deposit options, and the interest rate on judgments against municipalities, which could affect the town under those laws.
"What we really need to do is take another look at the laws," Roker said. "To see how they affect local governments, and not just town government, but also fire departments, school districts. We have to do a reevaluation of some of these laws and whether or not these are policies that help the state or hurt the state."
Murphy, who is a county legislator candidate, backed up Bianco and said the mandates were "totally strangling New York State."
"This has got to get done A.S.A.P.," he said. "We need to look at all, or any, type of relief that we can get for the residents of nonetheless Yorktown and Westchester County."
Siegel said what's most discouraging to her was that lawmakers, who imposed the tax cap, and legislators have failed to address the mandates and their implications.
"They took the glory by giving us the tax cap," she said. "We get the pain because we're going to have to have the cuts."
In a letter addressed to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Bianco wrote that mandates are hurting the budget process and outlined those mandates.
"I know that your Mandate Relief Redesign Team will issue their final report at the end of the year,” he wrote. "However, we must adopt a budget in November and December."
Yorktown resident and former councilman, Tony Grasso, said the only way things can get done is by putting political pressure on elected officials. He said getting taxes from different places adds up in the end.
"If it's $90 for refuse, $15 for school, now we're talking money," he said. "It adds up."
Michael Grace, former town attorney and town supervisor candidate, said he agreed with the call for a moratorium and cited the prevailing wage law as the most important one, because eliminating it could "significantly reduce expenditure on the local level." He said he thinks public officials should also present the alternatives to the mandates to state officials.
"I think pushing back on unpredicted mandates is what they should have been doing for years," he said. "You have to be the advocate for your constituents."