The Mandate: Many cities and villages in New York State employ a Vital Records Registrar who issues birth and death certificates. Historically, the statutory amount which may be charged by local offices for vital statistics documents was equal to the $10 charge imposed by the state for similar records. In 2003, the state's fee was raised to $30 without a corresponding change for municipalities. Since then, the State Legislature has enacted similar increases for certain counties including Monroe, Onondaga, Chemung and Tompkins, and the City of Oswego. However, the remaining local governments are prohibited from charging more than $10 for these documents.
The Cost: Allowing municipalities to increase the fee to $30 could generate significant non-property tax revenue, thereby reducing the reliance on the local property tax. It has been estimated that cities could receive an additional $100,000 to $600,000 annually (depending upon the number of documents issued) if they were permitted to charge the $30 fee. It should also be noted that this cost is likely to be borne by individuals that live outside the municipality or even the state.
The Solution: Enact legislation that allows all municipalities to charge up to the same amount as the NYS Department of Health for the issuance of vital records. Local governments have limited revenue sources, many of which are currently experiencing declines as a result of their economic sensitivity. Consequently, it is more important than ever that the state find no-cost ways to enhance local governments’ ability to generate additional resources.