Rockland considers new efforts to get the word out on unfunded mandates

BY MICHAEL RICONDA

NEW CITY – The Department of Finance might not have made itself clear enough with its most recent effort to get the word out on unfunded mandates, but it is ready to consider another try.

At a discussion at last week’s Budget and Finance Committee meeting, the legislature joined with members of the Department of Finance to brainstorm for ways to improve the way it communicates to its residents on unfunded mandates which county officials have condemned for years.

Two local laws were passed last year to inform property-owners on the impact of unfunded mandates on tax bills, but were never sent. Instead, taxpayers were perplexed when they found that Medicaid costs had been broken out onto a separate line on the tax bill, leading many to believe they were paying extra.

Legislator Alden Wolfe explained that though the mandate issue had been exposed to more residents, the alteration of the tax bill met with “mixed reviews” and incorrectly indicated to residents that they would be paying more in taxes.

“I thought that it confused the message,” Wolfe said.

Among the alternatives were an informational flyer sent out by the legislature independent from tax information and separating local and county property tax bills. According to Wolfe, legislation could address the issue, but it would probably be more effective to interact with localities and straighten out who provides tax information.

“It’s the kind of issue that does require cooperation and communication between the county executive and the legislature,” Wolfe said.