A coalition of cities, including Auburn, are calling on the state to increase the amount it reimburses New York municipalities for the maintenance of arterial highways.
Thirty-eight cities have arterial maintenance agreements to care for state-owned arterial highways that pass through the municipalities. The maintenance includes filling potholes and repairing guide rails. In return, the state reimburses cities 85 cents per square yard of highway.
The reimbursement rate hasn't increased since 1987, despite rising costs for maintaining the highways. In a letter to state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, the New York Conference of Mayors and Municipal Officials explained that the aid is below what cities spend on maintenance for the roadways.
Data provided by the conference reveals that cities now receive more than $10.1 million to maintain over 11.9 million square yards of arterial highway.
A bill sponsored by state Sen. Tim Kennedy, a Buffalo-area Democrat who chairs the Senate Transportation Committee, and Assemblymember Nily Rozic would increase the reimbursement rate from 85 cents to $1.87 per square yard.
Cities would receive an additional 20 cents per square yard of highway where the pavement is located on an elevated bridge, according to the bill.
An important provision of the legislation would require the state to index the reimbursement rate to the consumer price index for all urban consumers. Supporters say this will ensure the rate keeps pace with inflation.
"Cities and their residents should not be punished for participating in a cooperative program with the state," said Peter Baynes, executive director of the New York State Conference of Mayors. "We instead urge the state to uphold its end of this partnership and provide reimbursement based on the current cost of road maintenance."
The mayors requested that state officials include the reimbursement rate hike in the budget. Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state legislative leaders are in the beginning stages of negotiations on a budget for the 2019-20 fiscal year.
Increasing the reimbursement rate will require over $12.7 million more from the state. With the hike from 85 cents $1.87 per square yard, the state's reimbursement to cities would total nearly $23.3 million.
Any change to the reimbursement rate could be difficult. Cuomo and state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli announced in February that personal income tax receipts fell by $2.3 billion. With revenues lower than expected, the governor and state lawmakers will need to prioritize funding.
While Kennedy and Rozic's bill could be addressed outside of the budget process, Auburn Mayor Michael Quill and 37 other mayors who signed the letter want the reimbursement rate change to be included in the state budget. They also asked for the proposal's inclusion in the one-house budget bills the Assembly and Senate will release this month.
"We recognize that your conferences have been stalwart in your support for local highway aid and we ask that the same diligence is given to this matter which would provide much needed resources to our local governments who are good stewards of these state-owned arterials," the mayors wrote.