Nicole Antonucci/Recorder staff Amsterdam Mayor Ann Thane accepts the gavel from past president Richard Donavan.
By NICOLE ANTONUCCi
SARATOGA SPRINGS -- Increased costs, unfunded mandates and revenue caps are working against local governments, city of Amsterdam Mayor Ann Thane said Monday.
Minutes after being sworn in as the new president of the New York Conference of Mayors at the Gideon Putnam Hotel, Thane urged municipalities to become a voice of responsible stewardship of taxpayer dollars.
"Rather than make difficult decisions that cut into campaign coffers, they [the state] under-fund us year after year and shift the heavy cost of state legislative and budgetary inaction to the backs of counties, city, towns and villages," Thane said. "Local governments are under siege by a state government that sees them as frivolous and in need of guidance."
She added that while state officials lecture about shared services, most municipalities have been consolidating and forming partnerships for years. Budgets are no longer "fat" but balanced and constructed to provide for services, even while costs keep increasing and funding remains flat.
Thane suggested that rather than cap revenues, the state consider capping costs.
"Cap my costs and my budget will take care of itself, thank you very much," she said to a round of applause.
Thane was halted several times in her speech by the 200 in attendance, which included her family, friends and U.S Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, who administered the oath of office to Thane and the other elected board members.
Thane had been serving as the group's first vice president, which is now being filled by Richard B. Milne, mayor of Honeoye Falls near Rochester. Thomas M. Roach, mayor of White Plains, is the new second vice president.
Saratoga Springs Mayor Joanne D. Yepsen also addressed the attendees at the annual meeting, which is a three-day event that started Sunday and ends today. Yepsen spoke about working with Thane and other mayors on several initiatives which included an economic summit held May 1. The summit covered issues such as current housing trends and downtown development.
"We are working together as mayors and there is nothing better than that," she said.
Tonko agreed, but said there needs to be more of a focus on the cities.
"I think there is a move back into the cities," Tonko said. "The next generation is already moving back there to work, live and socialize. This nation needs to get strong urban policy into working order because the trend is there. We need to be ahead of the curve."
NYCOM is an advocacy group comprised of 582 New York state municipalities, representing 11 million of the 19 million residents in the state.
Thane touched on the group's purpose, which is to advocate on behalf of city and village governments in their dealings with New York state government and urged each of the municipalities to share the message with constituents.
"The future of the state is in your hands," she said. "Be a catalyst for real change. Talk about mandate relief to everyone you can. Follow the NYCOM example of setting political partisanship aside for the betterment of our communities. We, the members of NYCOM, are the force in the state to be reckoned with, and we will have it our way."