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Local politicians speak out against Cuomo budget proposal

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LIBERTY, NY — At a press conference at the Liberty Senior Center on February 1, all levels of state and local government were represented except for the governor’s office. The topic was Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget proposal to cut about $59 million from a program called Aid and Incentives for Municipalities (AIM). The local officials said the sums may seem modest, but every dollar is important to small struggling municipalities.

Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther said the rural population would be harmed by the proposal, while residents who live in cities would not be. She said while Cuomo proposed cuts for towns and villages, “funding for cities will be provided in full. I’m going to repeat that: funding for cities will still be provided in full. How many cities does Sullivan County have? And that would be zero. Last year the average amount of AIM for villages and towns was $7 per resident, while cities received about $100 per resident.”

Sen. Jen Metzger said she thinks that AIM dollars have been frozen for 10 years, and the amount should actually be much higher than it is, rather than being cut. She noted that the CHIPS funding municipalities receive for road repairs has also not increased, and municipalities are in dire need of more.

Brian Rourke, Supervisor of the Town of Liberty, said Cuomo’s proposal would cost the town some $40,000 in revenue, but the impact he said is larger than it sounds. That figure represents 2% of the town’s general fund.

“My quick take on this is the governor made a unilateral decision to cut this funding from most of the 932 towns in the state,” Bill Rieber, supervisor of the Town of Thompson said. “When we had the hearings on the shared services agreements that were mandated by the governor last year, most of the supervisors and mayors in Sullivan County” worked hard to come up with plans that save taxpayers money. “Now we get a little bit of a slap in the face because he wants to cut all this funding.”

The supervisors were both Republican and Democrat and more than one stressed that the towns and villages have been engaged in sharing services to save money well before the governor called for municipalities to create shared services programs. They all agreed that AIM funding is important to town’s and village’s bottom lines.

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