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Potsdam Mayor Steve Yugartis. Photo courtesy Steve Yugartis.
Potsdam Mayor Steve Yugartis. Photo courtesy Steve Yugartis.

Is Cuomo taking power away from local government?

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Steve Yurgartis has been mayor of the Village of Potsdam for two years. He calls the governor's strategy for government consolidation outlined in his budget address "meddling," and he's worried about the state-local balance of power.

Yurgartis talked at length with Martha Foley shortly after Gov. Cuomo delivered his budget address. Yurgartis says the governor is right when he argues that when people complain about taxes, they complain most loudly about property taxes, But he says it comes down to an underlying trend that's led to an over-dependence on local property taxes, for all kinds of state-mandated costs.

(note: there's no transcript of their conversation. Hear the full audio above.)

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Reported by

Martha Foley
News and Public Affairs Director

Local officials from one end of the state to the other face the challenges of rising employee benefits costs, outdated infrastructure, bad weather, a flaccid economy and more. The list is long, and now they've got Gov. Andrew Cuomo breathing down their necks.

In his budget speech last week, the governor sounded a familiar theme. He said the state's 10,500 local jurisdictions lead to some of the highest property taxes in the country. "It can't be that everyone has to do everything in every government," he said. "It can be easier. It can be more politically advantageous, but it can't be that there are not economies of scale."

And he proposed a two-year property tax freeze through state rebates to homeowners in local jurisdictions that stay within a 2 percent tax increase limit. It would do two things, he said: "One: relieve struggling homeowners and two: to incentivize consolidation and shared services."

The property tax rebate plan is part of the governor's carrot and stick approach to influencing the decisions local governments — towns, villages, school districts — make.

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