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Mayors call on New York officials to provide villages and cities with more funding

Rochester Mayor Malik Evans.
Gino Fanelli/WXXI News
Gino Fanelli
Rochester Mayor Malik Evans.

Mayors from cities, towns and villages across New York are pleading for an increase in the amount of aid their communities will receive under the state budget due April 1.

Through the Aid and Incentives for Municipalities (AIM) program, the state provides every New York municipality with general-purpose funding, except New York City.

Gov. Kathy Hochul included $714.9 million for AIM funding in her 2024-25 budget proposal. She’s now negotiating the plan with the Senate and Assembly. Legislators have countered Hochul’s proposal with significant, albeit one time, increases to AIM.

AIM is unrestricted funding, meaning local governments can use the money for virtually any purpose. Rochester has lobbied for a significant increase going back decades. But the city’s AIM funding has been stagnant for years— and far less, per capita, than Buffalo and Syracuse — while costs for everything else have increased.

“It may be 2024, but the same needs we had last year and 10 years ago, they’re still here, they didn’t go away,” Rochester Mayor Malik Evans said at a news conference Monday at the Rochester City Hall. “In fact, in many ways since we’re still post-pandemic, they’ve exacerbated.”

The New York Conference of Mayors is performing a statewide tour calling for an increase to AIM funding and visited Rochester on Monday.

The state allocated $755 million for AIM aid in fiscal year 2008-2009 for cities outside of New York City, records show. That’s far exceeds Hochul’s proposal.

If the funding had kept pace with inflation, lawmakers would be budgeting about $1.1 billion for AIM funding in this year’s budget.

The amount of state aid provided to municipalities varies wildly. For example, the Village of Fairport received $140,035 in AIM funding last year, or about 2% of its total budget, according to state records on the program. Rochester, meanwhile, received $88.2 million, or about 13.1% of its total budget. Evans said city officials would like the state to boost the amount of aid Rochester gets by about $32 million.

In 2022 New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli issued a report noting the state had failed to keep pace with inflation and it lacked a standard formula to determine the needs of municipalities.

“Adjusting for inflation, AIM funding has declined in value from the early allocations,” the report reads. “While the amounts of aid granted to each local government were originally based on formula-driven revenue sharing programs, the current lack of any consistently applied formula that adjusts for the fiscal needs of municipalities limits the impact of AIM— a program designed, in part, to support financially challenged local governments.”

This year, both the New York State Senate and Assembly have proposed plans to revamp AIM in their respective budget proposals.

The Senate has called for a $210 million bump on top of the governor’s proposal, and the establishment of an “AIM Redesign Task Force.” The Assembly, meanwhile, has proposed a $100 million increase on top of what Hochul proposed.

Evans and his colleagues said additional state funding is critical for the health of their communities, even if the appropriations are relatively small. The mayors expressed concern that if lawmakers don’t increase the funding, municipal projects may stall and tax levies may creep up.

Richard Milne, mayor of Honeoye Falls, said the $12,972 the village received last year is still critical to its well-being.

“That’s truly not a lot,” Milne said. “However, coupled with a two-percent tax cap, and the fact that no municipality wants to raise taxes, every little bit helps.”

Gino Fanelli is an investigative reporter who also covers City Hall. He joined the staff in 2019 by way of the Rochester Business Journal, and formerly served as a watchdog reporter for Gannett in Maryland and a stringer for the Associated Press.