County a finalist for $20M in regional grant funds

Chautauqua County and 23 local entities are positioned to compete for $20 million as part of a state competition to find the best government efficiency plan.

On Tuesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Chautauqua County as one of six $50,000 recipients for plans they submitted through the first phase of the Municipal Consolidation and Efficiency Competition.

The money awarded in the first phase will be used to further develop plans and projects in the second stage of competition. The winning partnership will be announced this summer, according to the governor’s office.

With Chautauqua County as the lead, the grant application proposes a broad range of projects such as dissolutions and consolidation, including police, water and wastewater services and a proposal to start a health consortium.

Project details are expected to emerge once plans are further developed and examined in phase two.

“There’s no doubt in my mind the future of Chautauqua County includes evaluating areas where we can restructure and right-size government services so we can be as efficient as possible,” said County Executive Vince Horrigan. “Understanding change in demographics and population shifts, we’re definitely on the right move.”

The grant was formulated through the Regional Solutions Commission, commission chairman and legislator George Borrello, R-Irving, and Dan Heitzenrater, executive assistant to Horrigan.

Borrello said the competition is an opportunity for the Regional Solutions Commission to act as a liaison between municipalities that submitted plans.

“These are projects that we’ll be assisting with and helping to get funded,” he said. “We want to give them the right tools and funding to do it. We’re just here to make these projects a reality with some key ingredients they currently don’t have.”

In phase two of competition, Borrello said they’ll need to compile more details on each project so the state gets a better understanding of the idea and cost. The county will need to have the work complete before the June 28 deadline.

“I’m thrilled we got through phase one, but the hard work truly begins to develop in phase two of the plan to make this a reality,” Borrello said. “I’m hopeful that we can get many of these projects, if not all of them, off the ground.”

Other competition finalists include Madison, Montgomery, Ostego, and Ulster counties and the town of Brookhaven.

In November, Cuomo announced the competition for local governments to compete and build consortiums for a $20 million award. Teams of two or more local governments had the ability to submit plans demonstrating how government consolidations and innovative restructuring initiatives will yield reductions in property taxes.

A panel selected by Secretary of State Rossana Rosado will pick the winning consortium and plan.

“The most burdensome tax in New York remains the property tax and this competition is designed to help local governments work together to cut costs, share services and streamline inefficiencies in order to reduce burdens on property taxpayers,” Cuomo said. “With this next phase of the competition, we will continue to work together to find opportunities to deliver cost-effective services and help lower property taxes.”