St. Lawrence County legislators will visit Albany Tuesday to push legislative agenda for mandate relief
Sunday, May 22, 2016 - 7:50 am

By JIMMY LAWTON

CANTON -- St. Lawrence County Legislators will visit Albany Tuesday to push a legislative agenda that focuses largely on the state funding of a massive list of mandates.

The call for mandate relief isn’t new, but County Chairman John Burke says that doesn’t make it any less relevant.

Burke pointed out that the vast majority of the county’s spending is mandated by the state and that legislators work with a very small portion of the budget that they can actually trim. He referred to the New York State Association of Counties nine for 99 list.

NYSAC says just nine state mandates account for 99 percent of county property taxes levied statewide, outside of NYC.

“Every year we the amount of discretionary money we have to spend diminishes, while the cost of services we are mandated to provide goes up,” he said.

Burke said the state needs to ensure that services it mandates are funded by the state. Unfortunately, New York lawmakers have a long history of passing laws and pushing costs on to counties.

Nearly all of the requests focus on cost savings for the county. It calls for an increased share of DMV fees, increased funding for indigent defense and more funding for highway projects.

“St. Lawrence County is a $227 million dollar municipal corporation doing business within and for the State of New York,” the resolution says. The work of the county is directed by a combination of state and federal mandates and locally preferred service which its constituents expect to be delivered in an efficient and cost-effective manner.”

“The County intends to inform its elected Senate and Assembly representatives and other key legislators in the New York State Assembly and Senate of changes to the law, if enacted, would better allow the county to meet the mandates and the will of its constituents for effective and efficient delivery of services,” it says.

Changes called for by the county include:

• Assume the financial obligation for the provision of indigent defense services and related expenses;

• Retain the local differential in Department of Social Services safety net payments;

• Amend legislation to allow for video court appearances and arraignments for the accused in pending criminal matters, saving both time and effort by staff from a variety of County departments and minimizing movement in and out of correctional facilities;

• Establish a commitment to Consolidated Highway Improvement Program (CHIPs) funding to allow for better local capital planning and investments;

• Increase the local share of Department of Motor Vehicles revenues for county clerks to twenty-five percent of the established fee;

• Fund the demolition and restoration of the former J&L Steel site in Star Lake as a State project to eliminate a severe and long-term blighted site from the Adirondack Park.