County vows to sue state over unfunded mandates

QUEENSBURY -- Warren County Government has pledged to launch a lawsuit against the state for mandating programs and forcing local taxpayers to pay the bill.

They approved a resolution Friday morning to explore all opportunities to sue the state in a class action lawsuit over mandating programs and requiring local governments to pay for them, and to involve the state's 62 counties in the legal action.

The unanimous decision was made Friday after they eliminated 17 job positions and slashed funding to various county programs.

To date in 2009, Warren County supervisors have cut $4.4 million from their appropriations, based on about 45 county jobs eliminated and a slew of expenditure cuts.

Queensbury supervisor Dan Stec said that the board of supervisors were angry over paying 79 percent of their annual budget of about $150 million on programs and services specifically mandated by the state.

Thurman Supervisor Red Pitkin made the motion to challenge the state in court, after Stony Creek Supervisor Frank Thomas urged the board not to just voice their complaints, but to take action.

Glens Falls Ward 5 Supervisor Bill Kenny expanded the idea to include the initiative for county officials to examine all existing mandated programs and cut funding to the bare minimum; and to look into identifying one mandated program that the county officials deem non-essential -- and simply stop funding it.

Kenny's ideas were met with enthusiasm.

Pitkin and Stec said the supervisors' actions were triggered by the state announcing several weeks ago they were discontinuing funding the administration of food stamps across the state, an action which will cost the Warren County taxpayers about $500,000 annually from 2010 forward.

"It's ludicrous that week after week, we have to learn about these new mandated expenses like this," Pitkin said.

Horicon Supervisor Ralph Bentley cautioned the supervisors that more shifting of mandated program costs might be forthcoming, as he cited that the fine print in he governor's latest budget deficit reduction proposal included handing off $1.2 billion more in program expenses to the counties.

"We've had enough," he said.

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