The city of Auburn has learned that almost $1 million in state funding it was set to receive will be delayed, with a possibility that the money won't come at all.
City Clerk Chuck Mason said the city was informed recently that some of the state's Aid and Incentive to Municipalities funding that normally arrives by the end of June would be delayed. AIM funding is the unrestricted state aid cities and some towns and villages get. Officials were recently told the city would receive 80% of the total due, or $3,947,541, on time. The other 20%, or $986,885, will be late, with the money anticipated to come by the fall.
But there also is a lot of uncertainty, Mason said. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has publicly stated on different occasions that the state would likely have to cut assistance to local governments and school districts if the federal government does not come through with financial assistance related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
If the city doesn't get the full amount of state aid, it would be a financial blow, City Manager Jeff Dygert said.
"It would create a big revenue shortage. It will have to be factored into expenditures next year or we'll end up using more fund balance temporarily to bridge that gap," he said. "We'll have to revisit the (2020-21) budget at some point when we know more."
The $35.6 million budget, passed by the city council in early June, went through a number of changes over the last couple of months due to lower tax revenue projections in light of the business shutdown caused by the pandemic. The budget cut 5.8% in spending, but property taxes will go up by 1.76%.
Dygert said Wednesday that nothing has changed yet with the budget, but once further information arrives, officials will have to see if adjustments need to be made. He added that said the city is also waiting to hear if other types of assistance might be available, adding that "there's been discussions about federal funding."
Congress is back in session in July, and a new round of federal coronavirus relief negotiations is expected between the Democratically-led House of Representatives and the Republican-led Senate.
"It leaves us waiting until we know more about what the situation's going to be. I can't react to rumors. We have to see what the reality is gong to be," Dygert said. "Obviously some people would want us to react right now. We don't have enough information to react right at the moment."
This isn't the first time the city has had issues with AIM funding. AIM was reduced by the state Legislature in 2011, and Auburn's funding was slashed by over $300,000 that year. The city council approved a resolution in February asking Cuomo and the state Legislature to increase AIM funding in the 2020-21 state budget, before the global outbreak prompted businesses to shut down stateside.
Mason implored the federal government to get involved.
"As the mayor and council have expressed at the council meetings, it's imperative that our federal representatives take action on some future coronavirus relief for state and local governments. Without the federal government stepping up, we will have some significant problems in the future as illustrated by this shortage on the AIM funding," he said. "We're hoping that soon after the Fourth of July, the federal government officials get working in Washington on getting serious about the next federal aid package tied to coronavirus relief."
Staff writer Kelly Rocheleau can be reached at (315) 282-2243 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @KellyRocheleau.
Get Government & Politics updates in your inbox!
Stay up-to-date on the latest in local and national government and political topics with our newsletter.