BUFFALO, N.Y. — It was a busy day on the phone Thursday for Town of Tonawanda Supervisor Joseph Emminger.
“Myself and the Supervisors of Amherst, Cheektowaga. And other municipalities have all been talking to each other,” Emminger confirmed during an interview with 2 On Your Side.
What they are talking about is their shock and dismay that the governor’s budget proposes to eliminate Aid and Incentives for Municipalities - or “AIM”, for most towns and villages across the state.
“This is going to decimate our budgets,” Emminger said.
Cuomo proposes eliminating $49 million in state aid to 91% percent of the state's towns and villages.
The only ones due to receive AIM in the coming year would be the few for which AIM comprises more than two percent of their total town budget.
In Erie County, for example, it would leave Alden as the only town receiving AIM, while the rest would get nothing.
It Means a Lot
While on one hand AIM only accounts for just over one-half-of-one percent of the Town of Tonawanda’s budget, Emminger says that still represents a significant amount.
“When you are dealing with a $100 million budget like we have, that’s a loss of almost $600,000 in funding,” he said.
Under the Governor’s budget, Cheektowaga would lose $821,000 while Amherst would lose $664,000.
Tonawanda is represented in the NY State Assembly by Robin Schimminger, the dean of the Western New York delegation to Albany.
“I was shocked by this,” Schimminger told 2 on Your Side. “It strikes me as being capricious, arbitrary, and unfair.
Fixing to Fight
“This would be, for me at least, and I bet for many other legislators a top priority to keep this funding coming at previous years’ levels,” said Schimminger, who predicted state lawmakers would seek to restore much of the funding as the legislature now reviews the governor’s budget.
“Remember, the governor proposes, but the legislature disposes,” Schimminger said.
Schimminger was joined by NYS Assembly member Monica Wallace (D- 143rd District) who in a statement said, “Municipalities across the state work hard to balance their budgets, to stay within the property tax cap, and to provide vital services to residents. We cannot move forward with a state budget that cuts millions of dollars in AIM funding from municipalities.”
If the Cuomo cuts are not restored by the state legislature during the budget process the total loss to towns and villages in just Erie County alone will be well over $5 million.
Mum’s The Word
On Thursday morning we reached out to the Governor’s Office for an explanation but – as is fairly typical of that office - we got no response as of Thursday night.
However, legislature sources say they would not be surprised if the move was made as part of a bargaining ploy by the governor, who might go along with restoring the funds in exchange for the support of lawmakers on something else in the budget.
Left in a Lurch
In the meantime, however, Emminger and his colleagues have budgets of their own to put together, with uncertainty over whether the funding will be restored.
"This effects out our 2019 budget if they eliminate the AIM and we're gonna have a budget gap," he said.
Politics at Play?
While the governor’s budget proposes to eliminate AIM for the vast majority of towns and villages it keeps AIM intact for cities throughout the state.
Last year, the average amount of AIM for villages and towns was $7 per resident, while cities received an amount equivalent to $100 per resident.
Cities largely vote for democrats like the governor.
The rural and suburban parts of the state, comprised of towns and villages...not so much.
Asked if there might be something to that, Schimminger replied, “
“That may be a secondary factor in the governor's mind, or maybe it’s the prime factor, I'm not sure,” before adding that cities generally have older infrastructure and populaces, and that may be more the reason their AIM was left intact.