|New York State||Assembly|
December 15, 2002
Honorable Sheldon Silver
Dear Speaker Silver:
I am pleased to submit to you the 2002 Annual Report of the Assembly Standing Committee on Local Governments.
The Committee addressed several important issues this year, including the creation of a Statewide 911 local assistance funding program and the extension of provisions relating to Industrial Development Agencies (IDAs) and the Private Activity Bond Allocation Act. This report describes the legislative actions and major issues considered by the Committee, and sets forth our goals for continued legislative support of municipalities and their residents throughout the State.
I share with you an appreciation of the role local governments play in providing essential services to the residents of this State and acknowledge your continuing support and leadership in ensuring that the Local Governments Committee continues to address issues facing New York's municipalities. With your assistance, the Committee will continue to focus on the needs of local governments.
Assembly Standing Committee on
2002 ANNUAL REPORT
OF THE NEW YORK STATE ASSEMBLY
STANDING COMMITTEE ON LOCAL GOVERNMENTS
Robert K. Sweeney, Chairman
David F. Gantt
Ronald J. Canestrari
Richard A. Smith
Fred W. Thiele, Jr.
Deidre K. Scozzafava
The Assembly Standing Committee on Local Governments considers the legislative needs of New York State's local governments, which includes counties, cities, towns, villages, school districts, fire districts, and various other special districts. The Committee's goal is to monitor the problems of local governments, to develop legislative remedies to these problems and to research new proposals that will enable local governments to better serve the needs of New York State. The Committee is concerned with the enactment of laws that will further improve local governments' ability to address their unique problems, as well as prohibiting the enactment of laws that would impede local governments in their delivery of local services.
New York State statutes affected by legislation before the committee include: the General Municipal, Municipal Home Rule, Local Finance, County, Town, Village, Volunteer Firefighters' Benefit and Volunteer Ambulance Workers' Benefit Laws. Since the powers of local governments are so broad, the Committee's concerns range widely - from the general area of municipal finance, to the creation of a special district. Home rule, or "special legislation," is also addressed by the Committee. These measures concern problems of specific local governments and apply to a particular jurisdiction. For example, a home rule bill might permit the establishment of a special district for a town to remedy a local problem. Through the use of special legislation to solve individual local needs, the Committee has helped to resolve hundreds of unique problems and enabled local governments to better serve their citizens.
II. MAJOR ISSUES OF 2002
The original Revenue Sharing Program, as enacted by the New York State Legislature in 1979, provided that eight percent of total State tax collections would flow to municipalities each year. The original statutory distribution of state tax receipts was based on a formula including population, full value per capita and personal income. However since 1980, the funding level has been based on a fixed amount of money appropriated during the annual budget process. The program is comprised of four components: (1) Per Capita/Revenue Sharing Aid; (2) Special, City, Town, and Village Aid; (3) Excess Aid; and (4) Needs Based Aid.
The Enacted Budget will maintain Revenue Sharing funding at last year's funding level of $781,322,000. This program funds the general needs of cities, towns and villages.
Supplemental Municipal Aid
This aid program consolidated three other programs into one: Additional Aid to Localities; Special Financial Aid to Certain Municipalities; and Targeted Aid. Funding is distributed to specific municipalities with demonstrated need. In the present fiscal year the following municipalities received funding: Albany, Amsterdam, Auburn, Batavia, Beacon, Binghamton, Canandaigua, Cohoes, Corning, Cortland, Dunkirk, Elmira, Fulton, Glen Cove, Gloversville, Hornell, Hudson, Jamestown, Johnstown, Kingston, Lackawanna, Lockport, Long Beach, Mechanicville, Middletown, Mount Vernon, New Rochelle, Newburgh, Niagara Falls, North Tonawanda, Norwich, Ogdensburg, Olean, Oneida, Oneonta, Oswego, Peekskill, Plattsburgh, Port Jervis, Poughkeepsie, Rensselaer, Rochester, Rome, Salamanca, Schenectady, Syracuse, Tonawanda, Troy, Utica, Watertown, White Plains and Yonkers.
For fiscal year 2002-03 the enacted Budget contains funding of $182,874,000 which represents a decrease of $6,160,000 in funding over last year's enacted budget. This decrease represents the elimination of aid to all counties, towns and villages which had previously received funding.
Emergency Financial Aid to Certain Cities
In 1975, the Legislature authorized the Emergency Financial Aid to Certain Cities Act (Overburden Aid) to provide special assistance to cities with populations of at least 100,000, but less than one million, that had to finance a school system as well as general city government, and were at or near their constitutional tax limits (Albany, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Yonkers). These municipalities have a State constitutional real property tax limit of two percent, which restricts the amount of revenue they can raise to support both municipal services and city school districts. The enacted Budget contains funding of $26,474,000, which maintained funding at the same level as the previous fiscal year.
Emergency Financial Assistance to Eligible Municipalities
This unrestricted supplemental State aid program called Emergency Financial Assistance to Eligible Municipalities was initiated to provide additional aid to Buffalo, Niagara Falls, Yonkers and Erie County. The cities of Syracuse and Rochester were subsequently added to the list of municipalities receiving aid. Since 1980, this program has assisted localities demonstrating financial need and facing fiscal difficulties due to constitutional tax limitations. The enacted Budget contains $20,814,000 in funding, which maintains funding at the same level as the previous fiscal year.
Aid to Counties
This unrestricted aid program, called Aid to Counties, was enacted in 2000, to provide counties outside New York City with additional financial aid. Aid distribution is outlined in Section 54-k of the State Finance Law and specifies distribution based on population. The enacted Budget contains $22 million, an increase of $5 million above the appropriation of $17 million for SFY 2001-2002.
Revenue Sharing Increase and "Spin Up"
This legislation, which passed the Assembly, would accelerate the payment date to effectively "spin-up" $63,399,060 in Supplemental Municipal Aid to twelve cities, and would also provide an increase in General Purpose Revenue Sharing over the next three fiscal years. This legislation would provide the following increases: four percent in State fiscal year 2003-04, three percent in State fiscal year 2004-05, and three percent in State fiscal year 2005-06. In the 2002-03 State fiscal year, the total amount of General Purpose Aid is roughly $561.6 million. Under this proposal it would rise to $584 million in State fiscal year 2003-04, $601.6 million in State fiscal year 2004-05, and finally to $619.6 million in State fiscal year 2005-06.
The legislation has not yet been passed by the Senate.
Proposed Increases in General Purpose Aid through 2005-06
Private Activity Bond Allocation Formula
The Federal Tax Reform Act of 1986 imposes a ceiling on the volume of private activity and certain other bonds that may be issued in a state in any given year. The Reform Act also established an allocation formula which provided 50 percent of the Statewide Industrial Development Bond (IDB) cap to State agencies and the remaining 50 percent to local governments. Federal law permitted temporary modification of this allocation formula by gubernatorial executive order until December 31, 1987. Following this sunset, the Federal Act permitted the State Legislature to establish an alternative formula for allocation. The system proposed in this bill, implemented in 2000, has worked well and operates smoothly and efficiently. Issuers around the State are familiar with the process, meaning that the statutory continuation of this approach will provide the least disruptive, most flexible and least costly alternative for the allocation of the State's bond volume.
The legislation passed this year strongly resembles the legislation passed in 2000, which originally established a 1/3 Industrial Development Agencies (IDA); 1/3 State agencies; and 1/3 statewide bond reserve, for use by both State and local agencies. However, this year's legislation includes the modifications made in 2001 to take into account the increased per person dollar allocation of bonding authority. The federal government provides an allocation of tax free bonding authority based on a certain dollar value per person - in 2000 that value was $50 per person, and in 2001 that value increased to $62.50. This per person increase has translated into an available amount of $909 million for 2000 and $1.2 billion for 2001. As a result, the 2001 legislation increased the carryforward allocation from $200 million to $300 million, and this year's legislation continues that carryforward allocation. Additional details of the allocation formula, established in 2000, follow.
Distribution of Statewide Bond Reserve:
Year-End Allocation Recapture:
Allocation Carry Froward:
New York State Bond Allocation Advisory Panel:
Future Year Allocations
Industrial Development Agency Authorization
Industrial Development Agencies (IDAs) have been created by the State Legislature to promote the economic welfare and prosperity of the State's inhabitants and to actively promote, attract, encourage and develop economically sound commerce and industry for the purpose of preventing unemployment and economic deterioration. Currently, there are 121 county and municipal-level IDAs.
Several provisions of the IDA statute were set to expire on July 1st of this year including: the authorization for IDAs to finance civic facility and continuing care retirement projects; certain tax policies; and, restrictions on the use of agency funds. On May 20th, the Committee held a hearing in Albany to solicit input on the role of IDAs. A variety of groups presented testimony - thirteen individuals overall, and additional written testimony was also received. Witnesses included IDA representatives, reform groups and interested third parties representing nursing homes and independent colleges. Both critics and supporters advocated extending the expiring provisions.
This legislation will extend, until July 1, 2005, the existing provisions of the IDA statute without modification.
The Assembly also passed legislation, A.11855 Rules (Sweeney), which contained several reform provisions. This legislation would: increase to $30 million the amount IDAs may expend for civic facility projects; require public hearings to be attended by at least one IDA board member or have a written transcript available for later consideration; require project information to be available in the State Register and/or an available IDA or municipal website; encourage IDAs to locate projects where existing infrastructure (transportation and utility) is already located; require hospital projects above $20 million to be approved by the Public Authority Control Board (PACB); and, extend the existing provisions until July 1, 2006. This legislation was not acted upon by the Senate.
Many people purchase cellular telephones for use in an emergency, not realizing that 911 calls made from a cellular telephone are not received in the same manner as calls made from a landline phone. Dispatchers at 911 centers receiving a landline phone are able to automatically identify the phone number and location of callers. Due to technological issues dispatchers do not receive the same information from wireless callers. This is true despite a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) order issued in 1996 which requires wireless carriers to deploy wireless enhanced 911 service - wireless enhanced 911 service refers to the ability of a call center to determine the location and identity of wireless callers.
Since 1991, New York State has imposed a monthly $.70 surcharge on wireless telephone bills to finance the implementation of an enhanced emergency telephone system for wireless telephone users. The monthly surcharge has been remitted to the State Police to pay for 911-related costs. However, a recent audit by the Office of the State Comptroller (OSC) OSC found that this money had been used to pay for costs including dry cleaning and lawn-mowing services, while the localities which provided 911 service failed to receive any funding. The same audit also estimates that surcharge revenue collections have totaled $162 million since collections first began. Despite the revenue collections, New York State has not yet implemented a wireless enhanced 911 system, and lags behind many other states.
Aware of the need for an improved 911 system, the Legislature, in 2000, passed legislation, (A.11379 Rules - DiNapoli), intended to provide additional statewide cohesiveness within the 911 system. This legislation was vetoed by the Governor who subsequently ordered the Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) to examine and report on the organization and operation of all 911 dispatching centers in the State. Since the veto, the Committee has worked hard to gather new information on New York's 911 system as well as monitoring the activities of other states. The Committee has held several hearings in the past on 911 Emergency Services in its continuing efforts to gather additional information on a wide range of public safety issues including routing protocol, training standards and the distribution of cellular surcharges. Numerous local government officials, wireless service industry representatives and emergency service providers from around the State have provided compelling testimony.
This year the Assembly successfully adopted, as part of Budget negotiations, a local enhanced wireless 911 program designed to improve the effectiveness of 911 Statewide. The highlights of the program follow.
Local Enhanced Wireless 911 Program
Board composition and powers
The Local Governments Committee will continue to work with both State and local officials and emergency service providers in order to ensure that any recommendations and proposed legislation will reflect the rapidly changing technology and advance the provision of emergency services in both rural and urban municipalities.
The Assembly passed several bills during this legislative session designed to address some of these important concerns - a detailed description follows.
Local Surcharge Bills
Eighteen counties requested authorization to levy a monthly $.30 local surcharge on wireless telephone bills to further supplement 911 funding. A detailed list of those counties can be found in Appendix B
Establishment of Mutual Aid Standards
Section 209-P of the General Municipal Law allows municipalities to enter into mutual aid agreements for fire protection services. However, the standards involved in these agreements vary widely throughout the State. This legislation authorizes the Department of State to promulgate rules and regulations establishing statewide mutual aid standards and requirements. The rules and regulations must at minimum include acceptable timeframes prior to contacting the next available service and a standard of conduct for call relays. Unfortunately, the Senate did not act on this legislation.
Cooperative Municipal BID Agreements
Last year the Legislature passed legislation permitting municipalities to cooperatively establish business improvement districts (BIDs). This bill: clarifies certain provisions of this legislation (Chapter 328 of 2001) including the process by which two or more municipalities may enter into agreements for the joint operation and management of BIDs; requires each municipality to establish its own BID prior to entering into any joint BID agreement; authorizes the creation of a cooperative district management association to govern joint BIDS; and, provides that in the event of the termination of a cooperative agreement each BID would revert to a separate management structure.
States across America are recognizing the need to promote sensible land use planning. In New York, 174 acres of land each day are subject to development, making New York 12th in the nation for the rate of private land development.
New York State has a history of leading the way in protecting the environment, encouraging economic activity and pursuing equity for all of its citizens. However, planning and zoning actions of local governments and State infrastructure funding decisions have supported a pattern of settlement and land use which necessitates expansive and expensive infrastructure resulting in new roadways, water supplies, sewer treatment facilities, utilities and other public facilities at great cost to the taxpayer and ratepayer. With this pattern of dispersed development, public investment in existing infrastructure located in traditional mainstreets, downtown areas and established suburbs has been underutilized and those areas have suffered economically. Throughout the country, "smart growth" initiatives are strengthening communities by containing sprawl, protecting our environment and promoting economic development in areas with existing infrastructure. Local governments are beginning to focus on soundly planned growth, "smart growth," through a collaborative community based effort to arrive at a workable plan generated by the community, which responds to the economic, social and environmental needs of the municipality and the region.
This year the Committee continued to explore issues related to smart growth and passed several Smart-Growth-related bills out of Committee.
Village of Farnham Justice
Currently, the Election Law permits villages to eliminate the office of village justice, but requires that this be done only after the justice's term of office has been completed. In addition, the abolition of the office is also subject to a permissive referendum.
In the election held in March, 2000, Farnham village residents elected a justice to a four-year term. The justice has since resigned from the position and the Village Board of Trustees has been unable to find anyone interested in holding the position (the Village has less than 322 residents). This legislation will permit the village of Farnham, located in Erie County, to abolish the office of village justice following a mandatory referendum.
Town of Ramapo Justice
Currently the Town of Ramapo, Rockland County, has only two town justices and the Town finds itself overburdened by the large number of cases on the docket. This bill would allow the Town board to adopt a resolution, at least 150 days prior to any special or regular election, authorizing voters to elect a third town justice.
Residency Requirements For The Village of Islandia
Currently, in villages with populations over 3,000, village justices are required to maintain residency in the village they are elected to serve. Prior to the most recent Federal Census the Village of Islandia, located in Suffolk County, had a population of less than 3,000. However, the most recent census now finds that the Village has 3,057 people. Even without the residency requirement the Village has had difficulty finding candidates for the justice position. This legislation allows the Islandia village justice, upon resolution of the village board, to live outside the village, provided that he/she maintains residency within the County.
Residency Requirements For The Town of Colesville
Both the Public Officers and the Town Law currently require elected officials to maintain residency in the towns they are elected to serve. However, some localities have had difficulties finding eligible candidates for elected offices. This legislation authorizes the town justice of the Town of Colesville, in Broome County, to reside outside the town, provided that he/she maintains residency in the County.
Great Neck Park District Reserve Fund
Articles 12 and 12-A of the Town Law authorize the establishment of special improvement districts, including park districts. In accordance with the provisions of those articles, special districts are permitted to establish repair and other reserve funds, but are not permitted to establish capital improvement reserve funds. This legislation would authorize the Great Neck Park district, established by the Town of North Hempstead, to establish a capital improvement reserve fund, capped at 5 percent, to finance on-going capital improvement needs. Both the establishment of the fund and expenditures would be subject to referendum.
Red Cross Disaster Volunteers
Last year the Legislature approved legislation to authorize State and local government employees, certified by the Red Cross as disaster volunteers, to be granted paid leaves of absence to participate in disaster service operations upon the request of the Red Cross and the approval of the employee's supervisor. Currently, 41 other states permit government employees who are trained by the Red Cross to take paid leave from their jobs to volunteer as Red Cross disaster relief workers. Experience has shown that this has enhanced the ability of the Red Cross to respond to disasters and provided valuable skills to employees that can readily be transferred to their regular jobs.
This legislation expands the authorization for emergency disaster leave to include school district employees. As with the previous legislation, district employees must receive approval from their supervisor prior to participating.
Collection of Special Assessments
Financial institutions are currently permitted to collect real property tax assessments on behalf of municipalities. This legislation will further expand that authority and provide financial institutions with the same option for special assessments, including water and sewer user fees.
This legislation eases the administrative burden on local governments and clearly delineates the responsibilities of both the municipal corporation and the financial institution. The financial institution is responsible for the maintenance of records, deposits, reports of accounts and is liable to taxpayers upon failure to properly credit any special assessments. The local government is responsible for notifying the financial institution of the collection periods for payment and any relevant collection dates.
Exclusion of Municipal Sewer Debt
In 1963, New York State voters approved an amendment to the State Constitution authorizing municipalities to exclude indebtedness related to the construction of sewer-related facilities from constitutional debt limits. Every ten years since, the Constitutional amendment has been approved by the voters; however, without a further extension this exclusion will apply only to debt contracted through the end of 2003.
This legislation would extend the existing exclusion of municipal sewer debt for an additional ten years, until January 1, 2014. Prior to being placed on the ballot for voter approval, constitutional amendments are required to receive approval from both houses of two consecutively elected Legislatures. The passage of the legislation this year marks the first time the legislation has been before the Legislature.
Municipal Acceptance of Letters of Credit
Municipalities which accept letters of credit may currently only accept such letters if the letter is secured at 140 percent of the deposit and interest. A Federal Home Loan Bank has a triple A rating from independent rating organizations and has priority status as a creditor, with its lien taking precedence even over the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). In light of the strength of the Federal Home Loan Banks' credit, this legislation would permit such banks to furnish letters of credit to municipalities at 100 percent of deposit and interest, rather than the current 140 percent.
Digital Records Preservation
Municipalities must preserve and maintain adequate records. Prior to the development of new digital technology, records were preserved on microfilm and microfiche. The advent of digital image technology has made those methods outdated. As with any new technology, digital imaging brings with it additional costs; however, the State Constitution authorizes municipalities to issue indebtedness only for projects for which the State Legislature has established a period of probable usefulness. This legislation would establish a five-year period of probable usefulness for digital image technology, permitting municipalities to finance the costs of digital technology and thereby facilitating the conversion of paper records or microfilm negatives to digital image format.
New York City Parking Violation Information
Currently, the New York City Parking Violations Bureau may place a lien on the real property of judgement debtors located outside of the City by individually docketing each transcript of judgement with the county clerk in which the violation occurred and with the county clerk in which the property is owned. This procedure is time consuming and expensive, and as a result is rarely used if the owner of the vehicle lives outside the City. This legislation would permit, but not require, the county clerks of Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester and Rockland counties to maintain separate computerized judgement dockets on behalf of the City.
Proper Identification of Erroneous Town Tax Assessments
Some towns have begun adding a line to tax bills identifying a "New York State Real Property Tax"; however, there is no State property tax. This tax line instead refers to local tax assessments resulting from tax certorari refunds. The mislabeling of these assessments has resulted in confusion with taxpayers unable to determine the source of the charge. This legislation clarifies the identification of tax assessments and requires assessments on local tax bills to be referred to and identified as "erroneous town tax assessments."
Annual Financial Report Filing Extensions
Timely preparation and dissemination of information concerning the financial condition of local governments is an important element of providing accountability to taxpayers. Local governments, industrial development agencies and special districts are required to file annual reports within 60 days of the end of the fiscal year. In cases where an extension is necessary, the chief fiscal officer may file a request with the Office of the State Comptroller (OSC). Currently, OSC may only provide an extension of 60 days. This legislation would provide OSC with additional flexibility - allowing them to determine the length of extension based on the individual circumstances, with the maximum length of the extension not to exceed 60 days. This legislation has passed the Assembly but is still awaiting action by the Senate.
Administration of Municipal Self-funded Health Plans
Local governments have been given the authority under Section 92-A of the General Municipal Law to provide medical insurance benefits for their employees. This authority includes the power to create self-funded insurance plans. As part of this authorization local governments are able to hire consultants to help establish plans but not have authority to contract with third parties to manage the claims payment process.
This legislation would authorize self-funded municipal employee benefit plans to contract with outside administrators for the investigation, auditing, approval and payment of claims. In order to ensure the financial security of municipal assets, municipalities which seek to utilize this option must obtain a security bond from any contractor. This legislation will further safeguard municipalities by ensuring that contractors are held liable for all loss or damage that results from any failure to properly discharge their duties.
Disability Coverage for Niagara Frontier Transit Police
This legislation adds the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority's (NFTA) police officers to the list of law enforcement personnel eligible to receive additional disability coverage for injuries received in the line of duty; thereby ensuring NFTA police officers receive the same disability benefits as other law enforcement officers. Unfortunately, the Senate did not act on this legislation.
Disability Coverage for County Probation Officers
This legislation authorizes counties to add probation officers to the list of law enforcement personnel eligible to receive additional disability coverage for injuries received in the line of duty; thereby ensuring county probation officers receive the same disability benefits as other law enforcement officers. Unfortunately, the Senate did not act on this legislation.
Issuance of Tax Anticipation Notes
Currently, municipalities, school districts or district corporations (other than fire districts) which operate on a calendar fiscal year may only issue tax anticipation notes within ten days of the end of the current fiscal year or ten days prior to the start of the new fiscal year. As a result, municipalities and school districts are frequently forced to issue tax anticipation notes in December during the peak of the holiday season - a practice which has often resulted in sale scheduling difficulties and lackluster market conditions. This legislation would permit municipal corporations operating on a fiscal calendar year to issue tax anticipation notes within 30 days, rather than the current ten days, of the end of the fiscal year or the commencement of the new fiscal year.
Erie County Private Bond Sales
This chapter extends the authority for the underwriting or sale of Erie County bonds or notes at private sale to include bonds and notes issued on or before June 30, 2003. This legislation will provide Erie County with additional fiscal flexibility by allowing them to determine the timing of their bond sales.
Restrictions on Farm Regulation
The Agricultural Districts Program established in Article 25-AA of the Agriculture and Markets Law ensures that farmers have the right to pursue their livelihood without excessive municipal regulation. This legislation further strengthens that ability by clarifying that towns and villages may only regulate farm operations in which the public health or safety is threatened.
Majority Vote for Planning Boards
Under current law, it is possible for a tie vote to occur on an application before a planning board or zoning board of appeals, leaving an applicant without the right to judicial review that would normally occur upon a denial by the Board. This legislation requires that motions or resolutions of a city, town, village, county and regional planning board, and zoning boards of appeals be adopted by an affirmative vote of the majority of the members of such board.
III. EMERGENCY SERVICES
Access to Benefits
Some of the parents, domestic partners and widows and children of firefighters who died as a result of the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, were found to be ineligible for certain special accidental death, health and pension benefits. This legislation ensures that the survivors of the firefighters who died while heroically performing their duty will receive benefits.
Service Award Program Credit
New York State is fortunate to have many paid firefighters and police officers who also serve as volunteer firefighters and ambulance workers. The tragic events of September 11th and the resulting increase in security measures have resulted in mandatory overtime for police and fire personnel. As a result, volunteers have been unable to meet all of the requirements necessary to ensure their continued eligibility for the service award programs established pursuant to the General Municipal Law in Articles 11-A, 11-AA and 11-AAA.
This legislation will permit the service award program sponsors to develop a policy to address these service interruptions. Sponsors will be permitted to provide pro-rated service credit for volunteers whose service has been interrupted as a result of mandatory overtime resulting from the events of September 11, 2001, in an amount up to 50 points.
Illness Presumption for Police Officers
The heroic actions of the police officers following the events of September 11th exposed officers to potentially hazardous substances and situations. In light of their actions it would be unfortunate if these same officers subsequently became ill and were forced to overcome unfair administrative burdens to obtain accidental disability or death benefits.
This legislation establishes a presumption of disability or illness incurred in the performance of duty for certain police personnel working in the vicinity of the World Trade Center or Fresh Kills Landfill on or after September 11, 2001. As a result, unless there is evidence to the contrary, the police review board should assume that the resulting illness or disability occurred as a result of exposure to toxins on September 11th.
Director of Purchasing for Fire Districts
The purchasing duties of fire districts are becoming increasingly complex as districts find themselves purchasing materials for use in hazardous materials response and medical emergencies. This legislation will help address the complexity of purchasing by permitting fire districts to create the office of director of purchasing. The director will be charged with making all purchases and issuing contracts for supplies.
Increased Flexibility for Service Awards Programs
Service awards programs were created by the Legislature in 1988 to encourage recruitment and retention of volunteer firefighters by providing financial incentives roughly equivalent to retirement benefits. These programs can only be established following voter approval and any subsequent programmatic changes must also face voter scrutiny. However, volunteer fire organizations have complained this scrutiny has become increasingly burdensome.
This legislation would strike a balance between the need for voter approval, and the need for increased flexibility in service award programs, by allowing the fire service's governing board to make modifications to the program so long as the changes do not result in the expenditure of any additional revenue. For example, this legislation would prohibit service awards programs from being modified in a way that increases the amount of points available for a given activity or decreases the amount of activity required without voter approval, but would still permit other types of modification.
Service Award Program Credit for Fire Prevention Classes
Fire prevention classes represent an important opportunity for firefighters to educate students and community members. In recognition of the importance of public service this legislation will permit volunteer firefighters to receive one point of service award credit for each class taught to a school group, not-for-profit organization or civic organization, for a maximum of five points.
Registration Requirement for Wild Animals
Emergency personnel expect to face dangerous situations when responding to emergencies; however, in Western New York a firefighter was recently bitten by a snake while responding to a fire call. This was not an isolated incident, but one that has been repeated across the country.
This legislation seeks to mitigate the risk to police, fire and medical personnel by requiring persons owning, possessing, or harboring certain wild animals to notify the clerk of the municipality, who shall transmit this information to emergency services personnel. The list of wild animal includes: snakes, bears, crocodiles and undomesticated cats and dogs. The State fire administrator is charged with promulgating regulations governing the implementation of the Act including establishing reporting dates and procedures.
Timely Verdicts in Firefighter Suspension Hearings
Section 209-l of the General Municipal Law requires that volunteer firefighters receive a hearing prior to being suspended for misconduct or incompetence and limits the period of suspension to one year. However, several firefighters have claimed that although they received a hearing, the verdict was not returned in a timely manner and as a result, their suspension continues indefinitely. This legislation would require the hearing officer to render a verdict within 90 days following the hearing, thereby ensuring a timely verdict and, in the case of a suspension, providing a specific date on which the one-year suspension should begin.
Fire Hydrant Inspection
Non-working hydrants pose a major hazard to firefighters and in urban areas, defunct hydrants further exacerbate parking problems. This legislation requires municipalities to inspect fire hydrants to ensure they are in working order and remove or replace non-working hydrants. In cases where fire districts are responsible for hydrant maintenance, they will be required to conduct the inspections and notify the municipality.
Increased Death Benefits For Volunteer Ambulance Workers
Volunteer ambulance workers provide an important service to the people of New York State, and unfortunately, the provision of that service brings with it an inherent danger. Since 1991, nine volunteer ambulance workers have been killed in the line of duty. The tragic events of September 11th have brought even closer to home the important role of emergency service providers and the dangers involved with their work.
The funeral expense and death benefit payments of the Volunteer Ambulance Workers' Benefit Law mirror the provisions of the Volunteer Firefighters' Benefit Law; however, the provisions of the Firefighters Benefit Law have been amended several times since enactment to provide benefit increases. Volunteer ambulance workers last received an increase in 1988. This legislation will provide volunteer ambulance workers with a much-needed benefit increase and re-establish parity with the benefits currently received by volunteer firefighters. This legislation passed the Assembly but the Senate has not yet taken action.
Village of North Haven Cemetery Transfer
The Town Law provides that the title, as well as responsibility for care and maintenance of an abandoned cemetery rest with the town and not the village. This legislation would allow the town board of Southampton, following a public hearing, to transfer the title and responsibility for care and maintenance of an abandoned cemetery to the village of North Haven. Prior to any action by the Town, the Village must adopt a resolution requesting the Town to authorize the transfer.
Village of Lewiston Land Transfer
The Village of Lewiston was laid out into lots and streets at the direction of the State Legislature in the late 17th and early 18th centuries and was officially mapped in 1839 and 1847. The lots shown on the maps were sold by the State of New York without reserving any title or interest in the street beds. Normally, such conveyances provide the owner with title to the center of the street. As a result, in Lewiston requests for deeds or easements were granted by the State, not the Village. This legislation conveys the right, title and interest of the State-owned street beds to the Village, thereby providing the Village with the same easement authority as other municipalities.
IV. PARKLAND ALIENATION LEGISLATION
The issue of parkland alienation, or the conversion of parkland for other purposes, has been a great concern to the Committee for some time. Case law has been established which requires that any use of public parkland for non-parkland purposes must be authorized by the New York State Legislature.
As part of this Committee's on-going effort to protect the public trust as it relates to the use of parklands, and in keeping with the Assembly's policy of preserving open spaces every attempt was made to ensure that the proposed alienation of parklands complied with alienation guidelines and adhered to the long standing policy, prior to passage out of Committee.
Committee guidelines for authorizing parkland alienation include the verification of the number of acres proposed for alienation, a review of those lands proposed to be dedicated as replacement parkland and a requirement that lands be sold at fair market value, with the net proceeds from the sale of parkland dedicated for the purchase of replacement parkland of equal or greater fair market value or for capital improvement of existing parkland. The legislation must also include a legal description of the lands being dedicated or alienated, as well as language detailing the number of acres contained within the lands being alienated or dedicated. Finally, the Committee requires a home rule message from the municipality requesting alienation prior to acting on any parkland legislation.
The following parkland alienation bills have been signed into law.
(A.9120-B Rules (Errigo); Chapter 659 of the Laws of 2002)
This chapter authorizes the sale of the Riverton golf course and associated parklands in the town of Henrietta, Monroe County. In exchange the Town must dedicate the fair market value of the property for the acquisition of new parkland or the improvement of existing park facilities. The legislation also requires the golf course to remain open to the public or the golf course will revert to Town ownership.
Town of Putnam Valley Parkland
This chapter authorizes the town of Putnam Valley, in Putnam County, to discontinue approximately seven acres of parkland in exchange for the dedication of a 28-acre parcel of land as parkland.
Onondaga County Parkland
This chapter authorizes Onondaga County to lease certain waterfront parkland to the Onondaga Yacht Club, for a period not to exceed ten years. This legislation requires revenue to be set aside for the purchase of additional waterfront parkland or for improvements to existing waterfront parkland. In addition, this legislation requires the land to remain open for public use.
West Seneca Parkland
This chapter authorizes the Town of West Seneca, in Erie County, to sell certain parkland, and requires the Town to dedicate the proceeds for the purchase of new parkland or the improvement of existing parkland.
Rye Town Park Concessions
Rye Town Park, in Westchester County, was created by the New York State Legislature in 1907. That legislation was subsequently amended in 1998 to establish certain concession agreements. This legislation authorizes the Rye park commissioners to extend existing concession agreements for an additional period of time, not to exceed ten years.
Town of Greenwich Parkland
This chapter authorizes the Town of Greenwich, in Saratoga County, to provide an easement on certain parkland to allow for the installation, operation and maintenance of a sewer system for the Greenwich Free Library Association.
Town of Vienna Parkland
This chapter authorizes the Town of Vienna, in Oneida County, to discontinue certain property it received from the Department of Transportation for use as a multi-purpose recreational trail. In exchange the Town will dedicate another parcel of land for use as a recreational trail. If the land to be acquired is not greater or equal in value to the land alienated, the Town will be required to use the fair market value of the lands alienated for the purchase of additional parkland or for improvements to existing parkland.
Town of Stony Point Parkland
This chapter authorizes the Town of Stony Point, in Rockland County, to convey certain parkland to Orange and Rockland Utilities, Inc. in exchange for the dedication of additional parkland.
V. OUTLOOK FOR 2003
The Assembly Local Governments Committee will continue it's in-depth review of how New York State provides emergency services to all it's residents, in particular the provision of police, fire and ambulance services. While both professional and volunteer emergency service providers as a whole provide an exceptional level of service across the State, the level of support, both financial and technical, varies widely across New York State depending on the resources available to a particular area.
The Committee will also continue its review of 911-realted issues at both the State and local level. The Committee remains committed to ensuring that any recommendations and proposed legislation reflect the rapidly changing technical means of providing emergency services in both rural and urban New York, as well as the financial realities of both residents and emergency service providers.
The Committee will continue to advocate for the equitable distribution of local government aid. In particular, it will continue to support the adoption of equitable new local government aid programs which should provide both a stable and predictable revenue stream for local governments.
2002 SUMMARY OF ACTION ON ALL BILLS REFERRED TO
|Total in Committee||381||86||467|
|Bills Having Enacting Clauses Stricken||6||0||6|
|Bills Having Committee Referenced Changed||7||0||7|
|Senate Bills Substituted Or Recalled||42||42|
|Bills Never Reported, Held In Committee||246||44||290|
|TOTAL NUMBER OF MEETINGS HELD||14|
Chapter Laws of 2002
|A.860-A||Smith||Permits the sponsors of volunteer firefighter service award programs to make certain modifications without referendum.||469|
|A.1479-A||Smith||Authorizes the Village of Farnham to abolish the office of village justice.||9|
|A.2281||Magee||Provides extra service award points to volunteer firefighters who teach fire prevention classes.||559|
|A.3273||Thiele||Creates the Southampton community development agency.||560|
|A.3431-C||Thiele||Authorizes the Village of North Haven to transfer title of an abandoned cemetery to the Town of Southampton.||669|
|A.4433-B||Tokasz||Requires individuals who own "wild animals" to notify the municipal clerk who will then notify emergency service providers.||680|
|A.5685||Miller||Authorizes the Town of Poughkeepsie to establish the "Carriage Hill bridge improvement district."||562|
|A.8833||Rules (Sanders)||Permits the New York State Council of School Superintendents to make purchases through the Office of General Services.||502|
|A.8925||Rules (Townsend)||Authorizes the Town of Verona to establish a development facilitation improvement district.||639|
|A.9120-B||Rules (Errigo)||Authorizes the Town of Henrietta to sell the Riverton Golf Course.||659|
|A.9252-D||Rules (Stephens)||Authorizes the Town of Putnam Valley to discontinue the use of certain park lands.||210|
|A.9446||Rules (Tokasz)||Clarifies certain provisions relating to cooperative municipal Business Improvement Districts (BID).||579|
|A.9546||Christensen||Authorizes Onondaga County to lease certain parklands to the Onondaga Yacht Club.||30|
|A.9557-A||Schimminger||Provides up to 20 days of paid leave for school district employees who serve as Red Cross disaster relief personnel.||505|
|A.9685-B||Rules||Increases the number of town justices in the Town of Ramapo.||40|
|A.9688||Nesbitt||Creates the Spencerport Fire District and authorizes the transfer of assets from the Ogden-Parma Fire District.||218|
|A.9748-A||Sullivan F.||Permits the Hastings Fire Protection District to expand to include the Village of Central Square.||647|
|A.9813-B||Weisenberg||Validates certain actions taken by the Village of Cedarhurst.||650|
|A.9844||Sweeney||Includes record preservation by digital image technology in determinations of the period of probable usefulness.||368|
|A.9845||Galef||Permits professional firefighters to join the Lake Mohegan Firefighters Benevolent Association.||292|
|A.9870-A||Weisenberg||Authorizes the Lawrence-Cedarhurst Fire Department to offer its volunteer firefighters a defined benefit service award program.||190|
|A.9950||Gunther||Requires that every motion or resolution of a local planing board be approved by an affirmative vote of a majority of all members.||662|
|A.9986||Gunther||Restricts town and village regulation of farm operation to circumstances in which the public health or safety is threatened.||331|
|A.10046||Galef||Allows municipalities which operate on a calendar fiscal year to have additional time to issue tax anticipation notes.||363|
|A.10192||Levy||Exempts the village justice of Islandia from residency requirements.||446|
|A.10398||Warner||Exempts the Colesville town clerk from residency requirements.||448|
|A.10428||Matusow||Removes the 45 percent residency requirement for the Millowood volunteer fire district.||42|
|A.10463||Sweeney||Permits banks to collect certain special assessments on behalf of municipalities.||217|
|A.10464||Sweeney||Authorizes fire districts to establish the office of director of purchasing.||670|
|A.10465-B||Sweeney||Allows municipalities which self insure to contract for claims administration.||681|
|A.10576-A||Tokasz||Authorizes the town of West Seneca to sell certain parkland.||451|
|A.10599-A||Thiele||Authorizes the Village of Westhampton Beach to transfer its service award program to the fire district.||373|
|A.10655||Tocci||Amends certain provisions relating to lease renewal for the Rye Town Park.||236|
|A.10664||Galef||Authorizes certain towns to implement a service award program for their volunteer firefighters.||640|
|A.10691-A||McDonald||Authorizes the Town of Greenwich to transfer an easement on certain parkland for the installation of a septic system.||157|
|A.10714-B||Townsend||Authorizes the Town of Vienna to discontinue certain parkland.||336|
|A.10731-A||DelMonte||Conveys the right, title and interest in certain street beds, to the Village of Lewiston.||654|
|A.11023||Rules (Sweeney)||Enacts the Private Activity Bond Allocation Act of 2002.||97|
|A.11080-A||Rules (Acampora)||Authorizes the Town of Southold to appoint four additional constables.||688|
|A.11086-B||Rules (Calhoun)||Authorizes the Town of Stony Point to discontinue certain parkland.||194|
|A.11269||Rules (Sweeney)||Extends provisions of the Constitution which would permit municipalities to exclude indebtedness contracted for sewage facilities from constitutional debt limits.||* Con. Amend|
|A.11274-C||Rules (Colman)||Authorizes Rockland County to contract with a private entity for the construction and operation of a wastewater treatment plant.||665|
|A.11299||Rules (Gromack)||Requires hearing officers to render a verdict within 90 days of the conclusion of the hearing for cases involving the suspension of volunteer firefighters.||591|
|A.11308-B||Rules (Nolan)||Makes certain survivors of firefighters killed as a result of the terrorist attacks of September 11th eligible for certain benefits.||468|
|A.11411-B||Rules (Brown)||Authorizes the towns of Lysander and Van Buren to extend their fire protection districts into the Village of Baldwinsville and authorizes the transfer of the service award program.||377|
|A.11469||Rules (Oaks)||Allows the Town of Huron to decrease the size of the Sodus Bay aquatic plant growth control district.||690|
|A.11509-A||Rules (Sullivan)||Authorizes the Town of Hannibal to extend its fire protection district into the Village of Hannibal.||379|
|A.11555||Rules (Farrell)||Eases the requirements for municipalities to accept letters of credit from federal home loan banks.||615|
|A.11556||Rules (Gunther)||Eliminates the non-residency requirement for the New Hampton fire district.||642|
|A.11630||Rules (Colman)||Authorizes the creation of the Town of Orangetown community development agency.||675|
|A.11637||Rules (DiNapoli)||Expands the uses of the Peconic Bay Community Preservation Fund.||250|
|A.11669-A||Rules (Sidikman)||Authorizes Nassau County to enact a wireless surcharge, not to exceed 30 cents, to finance public safety communications network related costs.||276|
|A.11676||Rules (DiNapoli)||Authorizes the Great Neck Park District to establish a capital improvement reserve fund.||651|
|A.11682||Rules (Luster)||Authorizes Tompkins County to enact a wireless surcharge, not to exceed 30 cents, to finance public safety communications network related costs.||388|
|A.11683||Rules (Luster)||Authorizes Cortland County to enact a wireless surcharge, not to exceed 30 cents, to finance public safety communications network related costs.||387|
|A.11687||Rules (Sweeney)||Provides an exemption from certain provisions of volunteer firefighter and ambulance worker service award programs in recognition of mandatory overtime resulting from the events of September 11th.||522|
|A.11689||Rules (Butler)||Authorizes Herkimer County to enact a wireless surcharge, not to exceed 30 cents, to finance public safety communications network related costs.||386|
|A.11700-A||Rules (Finch)||Authorizes Cayuga County to enact a wireless surcharge, not to exceed 30 cents, to finance public safety communications network related costs.||389|
|A.11718||Rules (Bacalles)||Authorizes Schuyler County to enact a wireless surcharge, not to exceed 30 cents, to finance public safety communications network related costs.||393|
|A.11719||Rules (Mills)||Authorizes Ulster County to enact a wireless surcharge, not to exceed 30 cents, to finance public safety communications network related costs.||391|
|A.11720||Rules (Kolb)||Authorizes Yates County to enact a wireless surcharge, not to exceed 30 cents, to finance public safety communications network related costs.||394|
|A.11722||Rules (Errigo)||Authorizes Livingston County to enact a wireless surcharge, not to exceed 30 cents, to finance public safety communications network related costs.||390|
|A.11729||Rules (Miller)||Authorizes Dutchess County to enact a wireless surcharge, not to exceed 30 cents, to finance public safety communications network related costs.||392|
|A.11730||Rules (Miller)||Permits the Town of Wappinger to list the amount of library taxes separately on its tax bills.||652|
|A.11732-A||Rules (Little)||Authorizes the Town of Altamont to finance its deficit through the issuance of bonds.||419|
|A.11736||Rules (Sweeney)||Extends the existing provisions relating to industrial development agencies (IDAs) for an additional three years.||112|
|A.11737||Rules (Kolb)||Authorizes Ontario County to enact a wireless surcharge, not to exceed 30 cents, to finance public safety communications network related costs.||399|
|A.11738||Rules (Oaks)||Authorizes Seneca County to enact a wireless surcharge, not to exceed 30 cents, to finance public safety communications network related costs.||397|
|A.11739||Rules (Oaks)||Authorizes Wayne County to enact a wireless surcharge, not to exceed 30 cents, to finance public safety communications network related costs.||398|
|A.11741||Rules (Young)||Authorizes Cattaraugus County to enact a wireless surcharge, not to exceed 30 cents, to finance public safety communications network related costs.||396|
|A.11746||Rules||Authorizes Westchester County to enact a wireless surcharge, not to exceed 30 cents, to finance public safety communications network related costs.||489|
|A.11759||Rules (Stephens)||Authorizes Putnam County to enact a wireless surcharge, not to exceed 30 cents, to finance public safety communications network related costs.||395|
|A.11810||Rules (Casale)||Authorizes Rensselaer County to enact a wireless surcharge, not to exceed 30 cents, to finance public safety communications network related costs.||400|
|A.11828||Rules||Makes technical amendment to the law relating to wireless surcharges for Westchester County.||490|
|A.11854||Rules||Authorizes Montgomery County to enact a wireless surcharge, not to exceed 30 cents, to finance public safety communications network related costs.||424|
Vetoes of 2002
|A.11191-A||Rules (Sanford)||Authorizes the Town of Cicero to establish a full-time police department.||53|
New York State Assembly
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