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[UPDATE] Paterson calls for halt on unfunded mandates

Colonie Town Supervisor Paula Mahan said she is looking forward to the elimination of unfunded mandates for the next four years, after Gov. David Paterson proposed such a move in his budget presentation on Tuesday, Jan. 19.

Paterson proposed a four-year moratorium on unfunded mandates handed down to municipalities and school districts.

His proposal is to eliminate new, significant, legislatively enacted unfunded statutory mandates, according to information from his office. The legislation would prevent localities and school districts from taking on new programs and expanding services by mandate.

Mahan said a regulation to annually inspect water dams is one example the board dealt with recently at its Thursday, Jan. 21, meeting. Those inspections run about $20,000 each year, she said. Federal stormwater regulation is another example of an unfunded mandate.

"Not having to face new ones is helpful. The mandates do have quite an impact on cities and towns," Mahan said. "Usually it means people have to work a lot harder. Unfunded mandates put pressure on property taxes."

South Colonie Superintendent of Schools John Buhner said he is glad to hear that the mandates are on the governor's radar.

"I want to be optimistic. We're trying to be optimistic," Buhner said. "It's encouraging to hear the governor is thinking that way. Considering the district is likely facing a 15 percent cut in state aid, any other cost-saving measures would be welcomed," he said.

Buhner said the mandates themselves are often useful, like defibrillators in schools, which have already saved a number of lives, but sometimes the cost and the timing of the information about the mandates wear on the district.

Paterson is also pushing legislation to aid local governments, school districts and taxpayers understand the impact of existing mandates. During the moratorium, Paterson will work toward a constitutional amendment to "protect localities from future unfunded mandates," according to his office.

"My proposal will eliminate a number of existing burdensome mandates that drive up property taxes for New York's homeowners, but it also goes a step farther," Paterson said. "The mandate moratorium I am proposing is especially critical at a time when all levels of government are facing historic budget difficulties. This initiative will ensure that the state won't take the easy way out when addressing its fiscal problems by pushing mandated costs down onto local governments."

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