What would you think if your employer decided that everyone in the office was required to upgrade their computer software and foot the bill for the upgrade? It probably wouldnít seem very fair, right? I donít know many people who would just accept that fact. So why do we as taxpayers accept the many mandates handed down by New York State every year?
For the last month or so, City of Norwich Mayor Joseph Maiurano has been forwarding me links to a web site with information about different state mandates imposed on municipalities. The site posts a new mandate every week, and from what Iíve seen, those mandates are in no short supply.
There are mandates for anything from benefit plans to purchasing goods from preferred source vendors. And every year it seems, more mandates are added to the list.
Iím sure the state has good intentions for putting these mandates in place, but as with many things the state does, a blanket solution for all of New York State may not work for every municipality.
Right now, New York is in a budget crisis. The economy across New York and the rest of the country is in a dire state and the more state mandates are pushed on municipalities, the more difficult it is going to be for municipalities to stay ahead.
I donít pretend to know everything there is to know about government operations and what is or is not successful, but it seems to me that a lot of these mandates do more to hurt municipalities than to help them. Iím sure there are areas where mandates are needed. Mandates that require access to public records and require municipalities to provide those records are vital to keeping government open and honest. Mandates regarding environmental issues are definitely needed to maintain the quality of our eco-system. But it seems in many cases, small governments should be allowed to operate without all of the restrictions and requirements that the state places upon them.
The coming year is not going to be easy for taxpayers, local municipalities or the state. People are losing their jobs. Businesses are closing, and the revenue streams for municipalities (sales tax and state aid) are not going to be as high as in past years. But even with all of those hardships, maybe there will be an upside to this financial crisis if it can serve as a wake-up call. If we can convince lawmakers to stop forcing additional costs and burdens on municipalities, maybe our local towns, villages and cities can survive this economic crisis without hurting the struggling taxpayers who would have to shoulder those additional costs.