A Special Report
from the New York State Assembly

Committee on
Local Government

Robert K. Sweeney, Chair square Sheldon Silver, Speaker square December 2003

Assemblyman Robert K. Sweeney
Robert K. Sweeney,

NYS seal

For additional information, please contact:

Assemblyman Robert K. Sweeney
Chair, Assembly Committee on Local Governments

Room 837 LOB
Albany, New York 12248


Mandate Relief

As part of this year’s budget process, the Legislature tackled mandate relief by passing several initiatives including: streamlining operations through new technology; local government consolidation and cooperation; and, restoration of fiscal aid. For more specifics please refer to bill number A.2106-B.

Streamlining Purchasing and Accounting

  • Electronic Bidding: Local governments received authorization to accept bids electronically. Though this method may not be required as the sole method of accepting bids, it will provide administrative savings and expedited processing. E-bidding will allow localities to obtain the most current bids at significant administrative savings, particularly with bond sales which often take place in fluctuating market conditions.
  • Cooperative Local Purchases: Prior to the enactment of this proposal, local governments which chose not to issue their own contracts could only make purchases from a county contract or the contract of a contiguous county, a process known as “piggybacking”. The legislative budget authorized purchases to be made from the contracts of non-contiguous counties or municipalities.
  • Account Consolidation: The legislative budget eliminated the requirement that municipalities maintain separate bank accounts for various reserve funds, provided that a municipality continues to account for such monies separately from other municipal funds. The elimination of this requirement will allow for streamlined operations through the easing of administrative burdens.

Streamlining Through New Technology

  • Electronic Collection of Taxes, Fees and Other Charges: Local governments received authorization to collect via the internet real property taxes, fines, civil penalties, rent, rates, fees and other taxes and charges. This authorization will provide significant administrative savings to municipalities. This method has been successfully adopted by several other states which have authorized municipalities to collect local taxes via municipal web sites.
  • Website Use to Meet Posting Requirements: Local governments are now authorized to use their websites as a means of posting public notices. Though the initiative does not eliminate newspaper publishing or other notice requirements, it allows posting on a municipal website to fulfill one posting requirement (of the several that are often required).

Local Government Cooperation and Consolidation

  • Municipal Cooperation Incentive: The ability of local governments to share real property tax revenue was clarified, encouraging municipalities to act cooperatively and invest jointly in projects.
  • Merger and Consolidation Incentive: The financial disincentive for mergers and consolidations was eliminated by maintaining State Revenue Sharing Aid at existing levels when municipalities merge. Prior to the enactment of this proposal, municipalities would have been subject to a reduction in their revenue sharing aid payment.
  • Village Dissolution: Towns and villages received authorization to work cooperatively in planning village dissolutions, ensuring involvement by all stakeholders.

Restoration of Fiscal Aid

  • County Aid: The Legislature restored $17 million in “Aid to Counties” for State Fiscal Year 2003-04, which was proposed to be eliminated by the Governor. The aid will be allocated on a per capita basis based on data from the 2000 decennial census.

Enhanced Wireless 911

The Legislature’s budget also included funding for an enhanced wireless 911 program. The grants will help local public safety answering points meet the FCC requirements for determining wireless caller identification and location, requirements commonly referred to as Phase I and Phase II.

  • The Dormitory Authority is authorized to issue $100 million in bonds to provide grants to help local governments implement enhanced wireless 911 systems. The bonds will be paid for using revenue from the existing surcharge on wireless phones.
  • Applicants will be required to submit funding requests along with an implementation timetable, a financial plan, a list of specific projects eligible for expedited deployment funding and a resolution in support from the local governing body.
  • The 13-member State 911 Board established last year will approve local plans and make recommendations to the Dormitory Authority, which will award the grants. The new grants will provide upfront funding to eligible municipalities to help with the acquisition of the technology necessary to provide enhanced wireless 911 service.
  • The existing Local Enhanced Wireless 911 reimbursement program, which received $20 million in funding last year and $10 million in funding in the SFY 03-04 budget, will co-exist with the expedited deployment program and continue to provide reimbursements for eligible wireless 911 costs.

Other Legislative Highlights

Exclusion of Municipal Sewer Debt
A.5255 (Sweeney)

In 1963, the voters approved an amendment to the New York 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 would have only applied to debt contracted through the end of 2003. Approved by the voters in November, this legislation will extend the existing provisions for an additional ten years, until January 1, 2014.

Snow Bonds
A.4887-A (Sweeney)/Chapter 42 of the Laws of 2003
Many municipalities in the State incurred extraordinary expenses as a result of snow and ice removal expenses from the winter of 2002-03. Several areas of the State were declared federal disaster areas by the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA). This chapter authorizes municipalities to issue serial bonds to finance extraordinary expenses of snow and ice removal, thereby ensuring that rather than an unmanageably large one-time fiscal hit, costs can be phased in over time.

Private Activity Bond Allocation
A.4417 (Sweeney)/Chapter 32 of the Laws of 2003
The Federal Tax Reform Act of 1996 imposed 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. The Reform Act did, however, permit states to establish an alternative formula for allocation. This chapter continues the allocation system first implemented in 2000, providing one-third of the bond volume ceiling to local Industrial Development Agencies (IDAs) based on population; one-third to State agencies; and, one-third to a statewide bond reserve for use by both State and local agencies.

Digital Records of County Proceedings
A.3302-A (Destito)/Chapter 627 of the Laws of 2003

Currently, counties are required to prepare bound volumes of their proceedings at the end of each year. This legislation permits recordings to be made and transmitted electronically, provided that paper copies continue to be available upon request.

Flexibility in Municipal Financings
A.5256 and A.5258 (Sweeney)/Chapters 137 and 83 of the Laws of 2003

Certain provisions of municipal financing – statutory installment bonds, variable rate bonds - were set to expire this year. This legislation extended that authorization for an additional three years.

Constitutional Challenges to Local Laws
A.6489-A (Gunther)/Chapter 296 of the Laws of 2003

Localities are not currently required to be informed of constitutional challenges to local laws. As a result, the local government may be unaware of a challenge and miss an opportunity to appear and defend the validity of its local law. This legislation would require municipalities to be notified and provided with the opportunity to appear in proceedings challenging the constitutionality of local laws.

Affordable Housing Incentive
A.8060-A (DiNapoli)

The Nassau Suffolk Primary Metropolitan Statistical Area, as defined by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, has been ranked the seventh least affordable area in the nation for middle-income housing, according to a Washington D.C.-based affordable housing organization. More than 25 percent of households on Long Island pay over 35 percent of their gross monthly income on their rent or mortgage — in many cases the ratio of gross rent to income is over 50 percent. This legislation would establish the Long Island Workforce Housing Incentive Program. Local governments on Long Island that approve the construction of five or more residential housing units in one site plan would be required to set aside ten percent of the homes for affordable housing. In exchange, the developer would become eligible to receive density bonuses and other incentives. This legislation passed the Assembly, but the Senate has not yet taken action.

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