It's no surprise that cities are slashing services left and right, but those sitting in city halls across New York are in dismay at the numbers seen in Governor Cuomo's proposed budget from last week. Time Warner Cable News reporter Innae Park reports from the first legislative hearing on that budget in Albany.
ALBANY, N.Y. -– It was a forlorn tale of upstate cities, all clamoring for more cash in a critical time.
"We are in the midst of fiscal crisis. Like all governments, particularly city governments," Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner said.
It was the chance for local governments to comment and testify before the Senate Finance Committee and the Assembly Ways and Means Committee on the Gov. Cuomo's proposed budget from last week. Many of the mayors of the major upstate cities say they support the governor's call for universal pre-kindergarten. He also planned a property tax freeze for the people in municipalities that consolidate their services.
Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan said she’s open to the idea if it will help her city’s finances.
"I have asked our common council for authorization to go in front of the restructuring panel," she said. Albany is currently $16 million in the red.
However, Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren said her city will lose out through this incentive because they've already used consolidation as a tool to cut costs.
"Is there more we can do? Yes, but [consolidations] are not going to give us the bang for their buck that it may give to other municipalities who haven't done that," Warren said.
The common complaint is that Aid and Incentives for Municipalities [AIM] funding has not been increased. It’s something that Cuomo hasn't increased in this budget, or in any of his budgets in the past.
These mayors said without additional help, they'll be hurting in the future.
“Presently the city is highly dependent on state aid, with over one-third of all revenues attributable to state support," said Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown.
“The city of Albany, compared to the other big five outside of NYC, receives significantly less aid,” said Sheehan. “If we were able to receive even at least 50 percent of what those other cities receive per capita, that would help to reduce our budget gap,” she argued.
Miner said, “New York state is only as strong as the cities that represent it.”
Monday’s hearing is the first of many joint legislative public hearings on the budget. The legislature has until March 31 to approve or modify the governor’s version if they want to pass it again on time.