Thursday, May 26, 2011

Tax Cap Gun to Our Heads, Part 3

Well, NYT editorials notwithstanding, it looks as though it's a done deal, complete with sunset clause (probably) and pension relief (sort of).

Just a couple of thoughts. In 2008, the Dryden School budget had a levy increase of under 1 percent. Do you suppose that will ever happen again? No, and why should it?

In NYS, counties are an arm of state government, designed to incorporate state programs with state funds, with a handful of discretionary programs of their own that they may or may not decide to administer (e.g., road patrols, bridge maintenance, youth programs, libraries). The "unfunded mandates" flap derives from the fact that over time, the state has paid less and less toward the state programs it requires the counties to provide (ditto for school programs, but that's another story). And now, the state has removed the counties' ability to raise those funds on their own--yet it has failed to recall even one of its many expensive mandates.

In other words, the pols in support claim that this tax cap is leverage to rein in spending, but the only spending counties or schools are actually allowed to rein in is that which deals with quality of life, not state requirements. Is a sheriff's department really an unnecessary extra? How about a jail or library? I guess we'll find out.

LATER: From the Dryden Courier, here's a related postscript that shows how the state manages to shoot down inventive costcutting methods:
Around January, the state sent the [Dryden] district a letter that stated if the district continues to use volunteers to fill contractual positions then the district would be found as not fulfilling the contract and the state would file an improper labor practice lawsuit. The state as a “goodwill gesture” said they would strip out programs from the contract but they only stripped out those programs that haven’t run for the past five years. The district has formed an Ad-Hoc Co-Curricular Committee and what they can do is make a one year memorandum of agreement, or MOA, to include more recently funded activities such as ski club so that volunteers can fill those positions and the programs can still happen.

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