Local mayors write state officials calling for preservation of AIM funding

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Village of Plandome Heights Mayor Kenneth Riscica wrote a letter to Sen. Anna Kaplan against the proposed state budget, which eliminates aid to many local villages. (Photo by Teri West)

Phrases such as “extremely detrimental” and “this proposal makes no sense” pepper letters local mayors have written to public officials after learning that their villages would lose aid under Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed budget.

They call for a budget amendment that retains Aid and Incentives for Municipalities, or AIM, funding to villages rather than cutting it from $19.7 million to $3.3 million statewide as the current proposal does.

There is no proposed decrease in AIM funding to cities.

Twenty-seven of the 29 villages in the area would lose their entire share of AIM funding.

On Monday night, Plandome Heights Mayor Kenneth Riscica mulled over the potential repercussions of a cut at his village’s Board of Trustees meeting.

The $6,095 the village receives in AIM funding helps the village stay within the 2 percent tax cap, he said.

He plans to review the budget to determine whether the village should adopt a law to pierce the tax cap if the AIM funding disappears, he said.

“I’d like not to do it, but we have to be practical,” he said.

He wrote a letter to state Sen. Anna Kaplan (D-Great Neck).

“There isn’t a mayor in New York who doesn’t want to reduce property taxes, but losing AIM funding would clearly work against that goal,” it says. “I am asking that before even considering making the tax cap permanent, you reject the AIM elimination and in its place increase municipal aid for the first time in a decade.”

Riscica said he found it ironic that the day Cuomo swore Kaplan in, the governor promised to uphold support for suburbs as Democrats attained a majority in the state Senate.

Jean Celender, the mayor of Great Neck Plaza and first vice president of the Nassau County Village Officials Association, said the proposed state aid cut has been a major “topic of discussion.”

Celender, whose village stands to lose $65,000 if the cuts aren’t reversed, also said she has sent letters to representatives to try and save the AIM funding.

“I feel we have to do everything we can to have it not eliminated and restored if possible,” Celender said, adding that if it isn’t restored it could mark a permanent end of funding.

A cut in state aid could require the Village of East Hills to increase property taxes to fill its budget gap, Mayor Michael Koblenz wrote in his letter to state officials.

His village’s residents already pay some of the highest property taxes in the country, he added.

“Many villages would have to make tough decisions to fill the gap in the budget,” his letter says. “Without the AIM funding, many other villages may have to cut services, programs, and even lay off employees.”

As of Monday, Koblenz said he had only gotten one response to his letter: a text from state Assemblyman Charles Lavine who wrote that he was optimistic the funding would be restored.

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