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Bedford Town Board Dissatisfied With State Budget

BEDFORD, N.Y. — When it came to the 2012-13 state budget agreed upon by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state Legislature, the members of the Bedford Town Board begged to differ.

Assembly member Robert J. Castelli, R-Goldens Bridge, stopped by the board's meeting Tuesday night to deliver a snapshot report on the recently completed state budget. The budget was signed into law by Cuomo on Thursday.

Town Supervisor Lee V.A. Roberts expressed her disatisfaction with the lack of short-term mandate relief in the budget. Unfunded mandates imposed by the state penalize municipalities, she said, making things even more difficult in light of the 2 percent tax levy cap and the demanding state pension fund.

“We are in the squeeze for ever-rising mandates from the state for the care and feeding of the pension fund,” she said. “We could have a tax decrease if we could stop this enormous demand for pension contributions.”

Roberts said the Metropolitan Transportation Authority tax on municipalities, along with the pension contributions, amount to tax increases of 3 percent to 4 percent before towns even start considering their budgets. Municipalities, she said, are prevented from providing essential town services, like buying a police car or paving a road.

Board member Chris Burdick echoed Roberts' frustration. "The 2 percent tax cap without unfunded-mandate relief really amounts to a shift in taxation,” he said. "It’s shifting from the state to localities, to the local property taxpayers.”

Despite their dissatisfaction with the lack of short-term mandate relief, the board treated Castelli to high praise for his efforts, commending him on his work pushing for mandate relief and for overturning part of the MTA payroll tax, which was repealed for businesses with annual payrolls less than $1.25 million and reduced for businesses with larger payrolls.

The board members' main message for Castelli, though, was to be sure to take their concerns back to his colleagues in Albany.

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