The Mandate: When the state first enacted the Uniform Fire Prevention and Building Code (the Uniform Code) in the early 1980s, it mandated that local governments enforce and administer the Uniform Code. When the Uniform Code was first enacted, the state also enacted Insurance Law § 9108 and State Finance Law § 54-g, which imposed a fee on commercial fire insurance policies written in New York. The fire insurance fee was originally created for the purpose of helping local governments offset their costs associated with enforcing and administering the Uniform Code. Since 1991, however, these monies have been diverted into the state's general fund instead of being distributed to municipalities. In the past eight years alone, over $98 million in commercial fire insurance fees have been collected but diverted from funding local code enforcement activities.
Needless to say, the state's diversion of these monies has turned the enforcement and administration requirement found in Executive Law § 381(2) into an unfunded mandate, which has forced local governments to fund code enforcement and administration activities through the local property tax. This issue has become even more acute in recent years because the Department of State promulgated regulations that impose additional enforcement requirements on local governments.
The Cost: The state's building code enforcement mandates require New York's local governments to spend tens of millions of dollars every year to enforce and administer the Uniform Code. The state's diversion of the fire insurance fee from code enforcement and administration activities costs local governments more than $14 million annually.
The Solution: Legislation has been introduced that would provide a permanent funding stream to support local enforcement of the Uniform Code and serve as a measure of relief for local property taxpayers. The proposed law would reimburse local governments for a part of the costs they incur to enforce and administer the Uniform Code.