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Editorial: Directive on sharing services is bearing fruit

Local leaders have come up with ways to share services and save money, thanks to a push from the governor.

A directive to counties in the form of the new Shared Services Initiative Law presented the challenge. In the end, officials in Erie County came up with a list of at least 22 different ways to work together to save taxpayers up to $4.5 million and possibly more next year.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who successfully implemented a property tax cap in a huge victory for taxpayers, is serious about this effort to save money and give voters more say. The plan is not perfect. It excludes school districts, which impose the largest property tax bills. Nor does it address unfunded mandates – procedures dictated by the state but paid for by local governments. Its purpose, however, is admirable in attempting to extract more savings.

Some of the proposals seem to be basic common sense, such as having the Town of Orchard Park provide dog control services with the towns of Aurora and Colden. Savings: $44,000. In one big item, Erie County will provide all property tax collection and billing services from many other local governments. Savings: $1.2 million.

The county already pays many towns to plow county roads. But the new plan includes a similar arrangement for roadside grass cutting, at a savings of $24,000 to the county.

The underlying message is that while municipalities may have already begun the work of finding cost savings through sharing some services, it never hurts to look between the sofa cushions for more.

Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz submitted the Erie County Shared Services savings panel’s plan to the County Legislature for comment.

The shared services panel consisted of county officials and the mayors and supervisors of the three cities, 25 towns and 16 villages in Erie County. The process began in mid-May and, as Poloncarz indicated, nine other initiatives were identified “that could save millions more if these proposals bear fruit.”

The Shared Services panel is expected to vote to accept or reject the final plan no later than Sept. 15. The final plan’s tax savings must be certified by the county executive to the state’s Budget Office by mid-September and then publicly presented in October.

When saddled with burdensome property taxes, as New York State infamously is, there is always more that can be done. For taxpayers, every penny of savings is worth the effort.

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