Mar 25, 2015 Russ Tarby Uncategorized
Most Central New Yorkers pay taxes to the federal government, the state, the county, their town, their village and their school district. All of those entities provide needed services, but there is some overlap and occasional duplication of services.
In order to address such issues, a 19-member commission on local government modernization called Consensus has been formed and is now conducting public forums, including one at 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 31, at Salina Town Hall.
Consensus was funded by a $250,000 state grant secured by state senators John DeFrancisco, a Republican representing the 50th District, and David Valesky, a Democrat from the 53rd District.
“So it’s a bipartisan endeavor,” said Salina Town Supervisor Mark Nicotra, who is a member of the commission, representing the county’s Town Supervisors Association.
While County Executive Joanie Mahoney has often expressed her interest in local government-consolidation efforts, Consensus is not necessarily designed to further that particular goal, Nicotra said.
“The commission has no preconceived notions about what the outcomes will be,” Nicotra said. “It could be some consolidation but more likely some efficiencies or economies of scale that could lead to further collaboration.”
Former U.S. Rep. James Walsh – one of three co-chairs of the commission – said it’s time for us to consider changing the ways in which we’re governed.
“This is an important time in our community,” Walsh said, “a time when we can do something important to improve our local governance. It’s really about improving services.”
Modernization is long overdue, he said.
“We haven’t looked seriously at our local government structure in 150 years,” Walsh said. “And if we don’t give it a try, we’ll have ourselves to blame.”
The question is, according to the ex-congressman, “is there a better way to do things?”
Joining Walsh as Consensus co-chairs are Cornelius Murphy from SUNY ESF and M. Catherine Richardson, an attorney recently retired from Bond, Schoeneck and King, PLLC. The commission includes representatives from CNY business, government, labor and education.
The March 31 forum will feature a presentation by Dr. Joseph Stefko, CEO of the Center for Governmental Research (CGR), detailing the commission’s newly published Preliminary Baseline Review.
Founded in 1915, CGR has supported public, nonprofit and private sectors for a century. It was originally incorporated as the Rochester Bureau of Municipal Research.
The commission’s Preliminary Baseline Review noted that Onondaga County has 19 towns, 15 villages and 20 fire districts with taxing powers along with 26 separate school districts serving portions of the county, all but one of which impacts property tax bills. The Syracuse City School District does not have its own taxing authority but relies upon the city’s property tax levy.
In 2013, the school districts serving Onondaga County collectively spent nearly $1.4 billion. Local governments and fire districts spent $1.8 billion that year, accounting for approximately 56 percent of total local public-sector spending across the county.
“I think this study is a great way to investigate how each of the municipalities provides their services,” Nicotra said. “An apples-to-apples comparison is an essential roadmap to understand the cost of government. By studying those comparisons, we can hopefully evaluate how services are being provided best to the residents of Onondaga County.”
To read the Preliminary Baseline Review and related studies conducted over the past decade, visit ConsensusCNY.com.