Municipalities should be doing what they can to ease the financial burden for taxpayers while increasing efficiencies. One way to do that is to share services across town lines.
To that end, the plan by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo should be viewed as a ripe carrot, without a stick, that encourages towns and villages to work together.
This property tax reduction scheme requires county executives to convene meetings of local governments, where they will develop shared service plans. The hope is that it will encourage town leaders to think about ways to work together and reduce duplicative spending that will create real, recurring property tax savings.
Now, unfounded fear.
As recently reported in The News, Orchard Park village and town leaders held a joint meeting of all the members of both boards. The meeting was held at a location each share – the Orchard Park Municipal Center.
Concerns over the governor’s proposal quickly surfaced. One councilman interpreted the Aug. 1 deadline for county executives to submit cost-savings plans to county legislators for an eventual vote in the fall as a threat: If no plan is developed, local communities would not receive annual state aid.
Richard M. Tobe, Cuomo’s director of upstate revitalization, later told a News reporter the governor proposed withholding $710 million in aid to all cities, towns and villages but only if the State Legislature does not approve a budget bill establishing a process for local governments to draft shared services plans for residents to vote on.
The governor has not threatened to withhold aid to municipalities that do not submit consolidation plans to their county executives, county legislators and to voters.
The governor promised to match savings achieved by local governments in the first year. And shared service plans will not impact funding included in the fiscal year 2018 executive budget for towns, villages and cities.
Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz gets it. He talked about his days as county comptroller trying to identify initiatives that would reduce the cost of government, but it’s hard to do alone. The attitude is changing and it is heartening to see a wide mix of county legislators, town supervisors, mayors and city lawmakers endorse the proposal.
Some communities do share some services – assessors serving more than one town, for example. But there is no reason other municipalities should continue to operate in their silos. It is too costly and ignores the reality that in many communities costs are rising but the tax base is not. Our governmental framework was set up in the horse-and-buggy days. The digital age should make it
easier for cities, towns and villages to avoid unnecessary duplication of services.
All they need is a little push in the right direction, which the governor is providing.