CARMEL, N.Y. — Elected officials from Westchester and Putnam counties came together Thursday to discuss important issues facing their towns with U.S. Rep. Nan Hayworth.
Hayworth, a Bedford Republican elected in 2010, represents New York's 19th Congressional District, which includes all of Putnam County as well as northern Westchester and southern Dutchess.
"I'm here to listen to you so I can do the best possible job as your federal legislator," Hayworth said at the start of the two-hour breakfast meeting at the Putnam Emergency Operations Center.
The congresswoman began the discussion by addressing an issue brought up at a previous meeting by North Salem Supervisor Warren Lucas, a federal requirement that road signs be replaced with reflective signs. The measure was pulled after Hayworth and other congressmen petitioned to have it lifted, she said.
"There was a mandate that was written into one of the transportation bills as a favor to 3M," Hayworth said. "I like 3M, but it's not necessary for every municipality across the country to change its road signs to a more reflective material in an area of modern headlights."
Yorktown Councilman Vishnu Patel, a Democrat, told Hayworth the town was struggling to keep up on taxes because so many residents were unable to pay their property taxes.
"People are not paying their taxes and we have to borrow to pay for the schools," Patel said. "Yesterday the bill came, and half of it was for the county and a little less for the town. Everybody says, 'You're spending the money,' but we know we're not [the ones] spending all the money."
North Salem Supervisor Warren Lucas, a Republican, said he still hadn't received a $104,000 grant awarded by former Congresswoman Sue Kelly in 2004 to help pay for roads in his town even after spending $40,000 in engineering fees in an effort to get the money. He asked to see changes in how small grants are awarded.
This kind of funding is an example of what the federal government shouldn't be doing, Hayworth said.
"The federal government should not be funding local roads," she said. "They should be concentrating on interstates. All they do is add layers of cost and bureaucracy and delays."
Lucas also told Hayworth that New York, along with North Carolina, was the only state that Medicaid taxes at the municipal level. He said this accounts for about 20 percent of taxes towns pay to the county.
"It would be great if there was a mandate at the federal level that said it is not pushed down to the local real estate tax level," Lucas said.
Hayworth said she would look into the issue, but she said state officials had to take the lead in lowering the tax burden and lowering Medicaid costs.
Westchester County Legislator Peter Harkham, a Democrat who represents District 2, explained how MS4 ground and storm water mandates from the Clean Water Act were costing area towns millions since the federal government was not funding most of the projects anymore. Bedford Supervisor Lee Roberts and Somers Supervisor Mary Beth Murphy echoed Harkham's complaint.
Hayworth said the federal government needs to better manage its expenses so mandates that it puts in place can be properly funded. She also said layers of government need to be eliminated in many areas.
"If we have a local issue that the state weighs in on, that adds a whole other layer of cost," Hayworth said. "Then if the federal government weighs in on it in addition, now you have three layers of cost where you should have one."
Croton-on-Hudson Mayor Leo Wiegman, a Democrat, thanked Hayworth for supporting the Property Assessed Clean Energy (P.A.C.E.) bill, which he said will help residents cut down on energy costs.
"Access to funding to be able to improve our own homes and lower our operating costs in our homes and businesses is important, and the property assessed energy process allows us to access funding with cooperation from municipalities and pay it back through their property taxes," Wiegman said.