By Kellen M. Quigley
Many municipalities across the state could lose thousands in aid under the proposed state budget.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo earlier this month released his executive budget proposal, which eliminates funding from the Aid and Incentives to Municipalities program (AIM) for towns and villages where the funding accounts for less than 2 percent of the municipal budget.
Cities like Buffalo and Tonawanda — which receive far more aid than other municipalities — would be unaffected, according to the released figures, but would remain at roughly the same level seen since 2011.
For local towns and villages like Concord and Springville, it’s a different story.
“That makes no sense to me,” said Springville Mayor Williams Krebs. “It seems to me the communities with the least AIM funding should maybe get more, especially rural villages.”
Krebs said this funding has been in the state budget for decades, and recently municipalities have been receiving the same amount each year. Springville received about $36,000 in past years, he said.
“Every year, villages would like to see that increased and it hasn’t been,” he added.
The proposed cuts would eliminate funding for 24 of 25 towns in Erie County and 13 of the 15 villages. Only the town of Alden and the villages of Kenmore and Sloan are unaffected by the proposed cuts, as well as the cities in the county.
For the town of Concord, Supervisor Clyde Drake said they would lose about $48,000 in funding.
“It’s a sad state of affairs, but it’s something that crosses both sides of the aisle,” he said. “It’s a solid voice going back to Albany.”
Drake said the money goes into the town’s general fund but can be used in many different departments — “you’re talking a lot of town services in the general fund,” he said — as well as the salaries for town officials, legal or engineering fees, public safety and even dog control.
“It goes on and on,” he said. “It even goes to mowing the cemeteries.”
Rural municipalities like Springville also offers services to residents beyond only those in the village, Krebs said. Departments such as public safety — fire, police, code enforcement — and street services are partially done with the village’s general fund.
“It’s used in our general fund, so that’s a hit to our general fund,” he said. “That’s $36,000 we don’t have in revenue, and when we go into budget you’ll see how that affects it.”
Krebs said the blow that lack of funding does to village services negatively impacts all the residents unfairly.
ALTHOUGH THE village still has some time before a budget must be passed, towns like Concord had to pass their budget for 2019 in December.
“The town last fall, based on projects that the AIM funding was going to be there, based their budget,” Drake said. “We’re caught in a shortfall situation. The tax rate assumes that $48,251 is there.”
After decades of remaining under the tax cap, Concord had to go above the tax cap for this year’s budget due partially to a depleted general fund. If the $48,000 doesn’t come to the town, that fund balance could be hurt even more.
“They can’t have it both ways, having this tax cap on there and then do their own cutting,” Drake added. He said $48,000 would be equal to about a 1 percent tax increase.
Krebs said the statewide savings in cutting AIM funding was about $16.4 million across the state. However, the entire state budget is about $175 billion.
“So by doing this, the governor saved 1/100th of 1 percent of the state budget,” Krebs said. “But cutting AIM funding from our general fund is 1 percent. It means a lot more to us than it does to the whole state budget.”
Drake agreed, saying, “The little bit that (Cuomo) is gaining is hurting an awful lot of people here.”
In addition to emergency and street services, Krebs said all the improvements the village makes through the assistance of grants are partially covered by the general fund. He said they can only go after new grants if the village has matching funds available, which AIM funding partially supplies.
“If we don’t have a longterm financial plan that allows us to do that, we will never be able to remain competitive as a community,” he said. “It makes no sense to punish the residents of Springville in this way.”
Until the state budget is finalized, Krebs and Drake said they’re hoping to change the governor’s and local senators and assemblymen’s minds and restore the funding to what it was.
At its most recent board meeting, the village of Springville passed a resolution asking state representatives expressing the municipality’s need for AIM funding.
“I’m asking the village board to give them a reason to,” Krebs added.
Drake said he reached out to Assemblyman DiPietro and Senator Gallivan, telling them it’s a “double whammy” for the town.
“Hopefully, they’ll be able to backtrack and make us whole again,” he said. “Short of that happening, we’re going to have to make some cuts in areas we don’t want to make.”
In addition to cuts in the town, Drake said they may have to dip into reserves that are already dangerously low, something they hoped to avoid by going over the tax cap.
“We’re hoping we don’t have to go there, but we’ll have to deal with what comes out of this.”