Everyone is for more efficient government and for encouraging local governments to share services and consolidate whenever it’s financially and logistically feasible.
Any opportunity to lower property taxes in New York state should be considered.
But earlier this month, we took issue with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to force local governments to each develop a sharing/consolidation plan through their respective counties and put it up for voter approval.
We said that while well-intentioned, the proposal represented another unfunded state mandate, that counties aren’t the proper entity for overseeing it, and that it was too broad a solution for such a complex endeavor that usually involve multiples municipalities and many different approaches to achieve savings.
Missing from the earlier discussion was an issue raised Tuesday in the Legislature in which the approval of these consolidation plans was tied in the governor’s budget to local municipalities receiving their rightful share of state aid — a total of $715 million.
No consolidation plan, the governor says, no money.
This isn’t fun money the governor is considering withholding.
Local governments need their annual allocation of state aid to help pay for local emergency services, road maintenance and plowing, water and sewer services, solid waste disposal, social services, employee pensions and staffing, and to help pay for all those unfunded state mandates the governor and Legislature keep forcing upon them. Without the state aid, the full burden for providing these services would fall on the local property taxpayers.
The state can’t just withhold this aid without forcing local governments to cut services or borrow money to cover any temporary or permanent loss of state aid.
The idea of tying a new mandate of such questionable effectiveness to the allocation of aid that local taxpayers depend on and are already paying for through their state taxes is ludicrous.
The Legislature should cross that line out of the budget before the ink dries, or face a revolt like they’ve never seen. Make sure your local representative in the Assembly and the Senate knows how you feel.
If the governor wants to incentivize consolidation, municipal mergers and sharing of services, he should continue efforts to reward local governments and school districts that do so with additional aid and other forms of tax relief.
In the meantime, the governor and the Legislature can fulfil their goal of reducing local property taxes by not continuing to insist that local governments pay for all the initiatives thought up in the state capitol.
Consolidation and sharing of services is a worthy goal. But working with local governments on reducing their costs is likely to be far more effective than forcing some plan down their throats.