An item within the New York state budget is urging counties and local governments to search for shared services.
The county, and the county executive specifically, would head the effort to bring together local leaders to formulate plans. The goal behind the idea is to alleviate a large tax burden that residents face.
At the local level, the shared services idea that the state’s pushing is nothing new to officials. During his State of the County Address in February 2016, County Executive Vince Horrigan convened a commission comprised of local leaders from various industries to be a conduit of information for municipal dissolutions and consolidation.
Entering its second year, the Regional Solutions Commission is gaining momentum as various municipalities have come with ideas and further assistance. While the state’s initiative is certainly a good idea, Chairman George Borrello said the county’s already ahead of the curve and working on a path that fits the initiative.
“It’s very much in line with what we’re already doing with our Regional Solutions Commission,” Borrello said. “I’m very excited where we are right now.”
The county is one of six entities in New York to win $50,000 for efficiency plans submitted earlier in the year as part of the Municipal Consolidation and Efficiency Competition. The county is now in line to compete for a $20 million grand prize this summer with a plan involving 23 municipal entities. Projects submitted detail several consolidations and mergers.
From the time they submitted plans to now, Borrello said they’ve added other projects to the mix.
“We’ve actually had other people reach out to us in other parts of the county that had things that they wanted to do and didn’t have a path to do it,” he said. “Some of them are very innovative involving consolidation of fire companies and potential sharing of facilities for multiple police departments.”
Even if the county doesn’t win the competition, the Department of State told Borrello the county still could get assistance from various funding sources.
“This is still a worthwhile exercise because it will put together those plans and outline the cost, savings and other benefits so we can keep those projects moving forward,” Borrello said. “But we’re still in it to win it and I’m confident that we’re a front runner in my opinion.”
The shared services initiative requires plans to be brought to residents via public hearings. Borrello said that requirement will be met per requirements of the state competition.
The measure approved by the state Legislature is different than what Gov. Andrew Cuomo originally proposed. Under his plan, shared service initiatives would go to residents for a vote during the November election.
There was immediate pushback, however, among local leaders throughout the state over the short time frame they’d have to design and put plans to the voters. Others have criticized the state for not doing enough to cut unfunded mandates. Horrigan said he’ll be using the Regional Solutions Commission and the grant submission for the $20 million award as his answer to the state budget item.
“Eventually these projects in the application will require resolution from the individual municipalities to put them forth,” Horrigan said. “It doesn’t make sense to do a whole separate effort on another initiative because that’s what we’re doing with this one.”