485b Mandate Reform
The issue of unfunded mandates – laws passed by the state of New York or Congress that require municipalities to provide programs and services, but are expected to be funded by local taxes – remain a frustrating issue for local governments, including Monroe County and its constituent towns, villages and school districts. Although the excuse of “unfunded mandates” is often abused by the county administration for all manner of financial gimmicks and dereliction of local budget priorities, the problem is real.
Legislator Paul Haney identified one mandate that costs Monroe County over three quarters of a million dollars each year and where state law already provided the County a mechanism for limiting its impact. The state’s 485b tax exemption is automatically granted to any business in Monroe County that improves its real property.
While noble in its intent – decreasing the crushing burden of property taxes on local, growing businesses – because the county has no Industrial and Commercial Incentive Board, the exemption is automatically granted to all projects. If the county were to form such a board, it would have the power to define specific areas where the full exemption could be claimed and other areas where a lesser tax break, or no break at all, would be offered, thus allowing 485b to be used to target smart growth and development, and decreasing the total impact on the county budget from this single break so that other taxes and fees wouldn’t have to make up the full difference.
The legislation to create a board, modeled after similar efforts undertaken by the Town of Greece several years ago, is still awaiting a discussion in committee as of June 2015. You can read the legislation and its sponsor's memo here.