Monday, July 20, 2009

More towns and villages consider merging services

The Times Herald-Record reported on the debate of savings versus services around consolidation in local government and associated entities. As the article relates:

Maybrook Village Clerk Tina Johnson gets lots of compliments. Residents walk into Village Hall just to say thanks for the snowplowing and street sweeping.

But at tax time, they're not so congenial.

"It is a common refrain we hear all the time. 'We hate our taxes, but we love our services,'" said Scott Sittig, a senior research associate with the Center for Governmental Research in Rochester.

Sittig spends his days crunching numbers on proposed government consolidations in New York. With more than 10,000 local taxing agencies, this state also has the nation's second-highest tax burden, according to The Tax Foundation, and a mind-boggling system of overlapping special districts and governments.

In Orange County, there are 302 local governments with taxing power, including municipalities, school districts and special districts that tax for water and sewer.

In Montgomery alone, there are four fire districts, 22 elected board members, 100 full- and part-time police officers in four departments, and a town and three village governments whose 2009 budgets add up to almost $29 million.

It's just the type of place where consolidation could equal lower taxes and higher efficiency.
"Where there is clear overlap of governments, it makes a lot of sense to look at eliminating layers," Sittig said.

Easier said than done
In the last two years, more than 20 mid-Hudson localities have talked merger and efficiency, although none have acted. Read more here about the barriers and a new law Gov. Paterson has signed that should make consolidations easier.

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