Outcry forces Governor to restore town aid

COPAKE—This town and many other municipalities across the county and state have joined together to tell the governor, “We want our money!”

The mass outcry has caused Governor Cuomo to rethink things and restore the cuts he planned to make.

The Copake Town Board unanimously approved a resolution at its February 14 meeting, at the urging of the Association of Towns, calling on Governor Andrew Cuomo and the State Legislature to continue Aid and Incentives to Municipalities (AIM) payments in the fiscal year 2019-2020 state budget.

Copake stands to lose $11,239 in AIM funds if the Governor’s proposal to cut this program that provides direct state funding to towns, villages and cities becomes part of the upcoming state budget.

The list of 18 Columbia County towns, the amounts of state money each is slated to lose and the percentage of each town’s budget that the money represents can be found at


The Town of Kinderhook would be the biggest loser at $50,661, followed by the Town of Claverack at $44,049 and the Town of Ghent at $20,755.

The Governor proposed to cut AIM funding based on the idea that municipalities slated to receive amounts less than 2% of that municipality’s total spending in 2017 have a “low reliance” on the funds and therefore AIM is “not a significant source of revenue.”

Copake Supervisor Jeff Nayer told the board, the governor is placing the burden on the towns to fix the gap the loss of these funds creates in the towns’ already established budgets for January 1 through December 31, 2019 “because he can’t balance his own [April 1, 2019 through March 31, 2020] budget.”

In recent years, Copake has not exceeded the mandatory 2% tax cap and has kept taxes flat. But now somehow “we’ve got to put that money back in the budget,” which could require that taxes be raised. The Governor “wants to make himself look good,” said the supervisor.

In a letter to the Town Board, State of New York Association of Towns Executive Director Gerry Geist wrote that the Governor’s cuts to the AIM funding “to the tune of $59 million, effectively gut[s] the program…

If the cuts go through, a shocking 91% of towns will permanently lose their AIM funding. The governor’s reasoning for these cuts? The governor stated that the growth of reserve funds in towns and villages—the result of years of prudent and meticulous spending—was why he stripped towns and villages of their AIM funding.”

Mr. Geist wrote that the governor’s “proposal conveniently ignores the fact that reserve funds are not for operating expenses, and a reliable source of aid from the state is needed to accurately budget for operating expenses. And let’s not forget, towns need to maintain sufficient reserve levels to preserve good bond ratings… the money has to come from somewhere, and this dangerous proposal could result in service and program cuts and layoffs. Every dollar the state shares is a dollar that doesn’t have to be levied on the backs of taxpayers.”

The day after the Copake February meeting, the governor announced an amendment to the FY 2020 state budget to make impacted towns and villages whole from changes to the AIM program.

In a press release, the Governor said, “The original proposal only impacted localities receiving a relatively small amount of money, but I have been contacted by mayors and local officials who say in these tough times it would still be a challenge for them. That is why we are revising the executive budget to use internet sales tax revenue to make these impacted localities whole.”

According to the release, “The elimination of the internet tax advantage was included in Governor Cuomo’s FY 2020 Executive Budget and ensures that out-of-state merchants do not have a price advantage over the State’s retail community. New York’s brick and mortar retailers are currently at a disadvantage because many online retail competitors are not collecting sales tax. This unequal treatment is unfair to the retailers who do collect sales tax, the customers who pay sales tax, the public at large who is forsaking State and local revenues, and the people who depend on the public services supported by those revenues.”

Columbia County Board of Supervisors Chairman Matt Murell (R-Stockport) told The Columbia Paper by phone this week, his town was slated to lose $19,908 in AIM funding, noting the situation was “unfair because we as a town had already set the budget and were counting on that money.”

As for how the Governor’s proposed remedy would work, Mr. Murell said in Columbia County, the county shares sales tax revenues with the towns as opposed to counties governed by a county legislature “which keeps all the sales tax.” When and if this internet sales tax revenue might show up is not clear, but the Governor’s release says, “On an annual basis, the elimination of the internet tax advantage is expected to generate $390 million in additional revenue for local governments.”

Mr. Nayer said following the meeting as far as he is concerned the matter is still up in the air because the state budget has not been passed.

To contact Diane Valden email

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