This year’s budget contains an incentive for localities to share services through a newly created Countywide Shared Services Tax Savings initiative. While many localities and counties in our region already share services, under this new plan localities will be eligible for state reimbursement if they find new ways to share services.
The plan that passed is different from what the governor first proposed in his executive budget in January. The governor’s plan took a top-down approach by requiring the county executive or county administrator (whichever is applicable) draft the shared service proposal and submit that plan to voters. This provision was appropriately met with push back from local elected officials because it completely excluded them from the process. They rightfully viewed their exclusion as the governor’s attempt to undermine local control. Moreover, excluding local officials from the process was an odd policy decision in light of the fact that they are the most knowledgeable when it comes to shared services and intermunicipal agreements. Fortunately, the governor’s proposal didn’t make it through the budget process and instead an improved initiative was adopted. Now the plan encourages representatives from each locality within each county to build consensus and find ways to share services to ultimately save taxpayer dollars.
Pursuant to the new law, the county administrator in the case of Oswego and Jefferson counties or the county executive, in the case of Onondaga County, is required to form a shared-services panel. The panel is to be chaired by the county administrator or county executive, as the case may be, and shall include the mayors of every city and village, and supervisor of every town within the county. Representatives from school districts, BOCES and special districts may also be included on the panel at the discretion of the panel chair. By no later than Aug. 1 of this year, the panel is required to develop a plan for shared services between any number of local governments within the county that results in recurring property tax savings. The plan is then submitted to the county legislature, which is required to review the plan and may offer changes through an advisory report. The panel can then decide whether to modify its plan based on the legislatures’ recommended changes. The panel must then hold at least three public meetings on the plan then the panel is required to vote on the plan. A majority vote is required for approval. Prior to the vote, any member of the panel may remove any proposed action that affects their local government.
As an incentive, the state will provide funding equal to the property tax savings with a one-time match. The more money that is saved, the larger the tax savings and subsequent incentive from the state will be. For example, if a county saves taxpayers $100,000, they will be eligible to be reimbursed up to $100,000 for a one-time matched savings. Prior to having receiving the state incentive, the panel has to agree on how the reimbursement will be distributed and used among the localities.
There is really no downside to this initiative and if government becomes more efficient and taxpayers end up saving money as a result then all the better. However, it should be understood that for the most part local governments have done a good job keeping spending in check. The biggest challenge continues to be state mandates. State mandates on county and local governments is an issue that neither the governor nor many in the state legislature seem to want to address. Until mandates are address, high property taxes in New York will continue to be a challenge.
If you have any questions or comments regarding this or any other state issue, please contact me. My office can be reached by mail at 200 N. Second St., Fulton, New York 13069, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling (315) 598-5185. You can also friend me, Assemblyman Barclay, on Facebook.