Guest post from Tom Cetrino, a SUNY New Paltz Political Science alum and member of The Benjamin Center’s Advisory Board
Recently enacted legislation (A3009C/S2009C Part BBB) included a revision of Governor Cuomo’s proposal to require each county outside of New York City to prepare a plan for further sharing of service delivery responsibilities among local governments contained within the county. Each county is required to have a shared services panel that must include the chief executive of the county (typically the County Executive) who will serve as the chair, and the mayor or supervisor of every town, city, and village in the county. Additionally, the county may elect to include school districts, BOCES, and special improvement districts on the panel and in the plan.
The plan must demonstrate new recurring property tax savings by eliminating or consolidating duplicative local government services. In preparing the plan, the county must consult and seek input from the shared services panel and each collective bargaining unit with members working for the entities represented on the panel as well as community, business and civic leaders. At least three public hearings must be held on the plan.
A proposed plan, with a certification as to the accuracy of its savings, must be submitted to the county legislative body by August 1, 2017. The county legislative body may propose modifications to the plan, subject to acceptance by the chief executive of the county. The shared services panel must approve the plan by a majority vote before September 15, 2017. Any panel member can veto specific actions that affect the unit of local government he or she represents. If the panel does not approve the plan, it must publish a public report about the plan, and each member must explain his or her vote in writing, and the chief executive must try again in 2018 with the same procedures and deadlines.
If approved by the panel a final plan must be sent to the State Director of the Budget with a savings certification by September 15, 2017. The final plan must be publicly disseminated to residents of the county and the chief executive of the county must make a public presentation of the plan by October 15, 2017.
If the plan is approved and implemented, the county will be eligible for one-time matching funding, subject to available appropriation. Counties could potentially receive matching funding for all actual and demonstrable savings from the plan for the first calendar year of its implementation (2018 or 2019). This funding was not contained in the governor’s original proposal.
Governor Cuomo has long been critical of local government in New York. He thinks that there are too many overlapping local governments, that they are inefficient and that this inefficiency is a reason that property taxes in the state remain very high. While still attorney general Cuomo successfully advanced legislation to make dissolution of village government easier. This had little impact. While governor he gained the enactment of a property tax cap and advanced a number of incentives to encourage consolidation and intergovernmental collaboration.
Localities, with pride in the cooperation they routinely achieve, bridle at what they describe as the continued imposition of mandated costs by the state. They say that they are being blamed for higher taxes required to meet these costs while also being denied the necessary revenue to operate.
This year, Cuomo’s budget proposal made $754 million in recurring annual Aid and Incentives for Municipalities (AIM) funding contingent on the state legislature enacting a law requiring new countywide shared services property tax savings plans. The legislature cannot change or amend the language of an appropriation bill; they can only delete the entire appropriation. This gave the governor great deal of leverage to get some action from the legislature on his proposal despite local government leaders’ and both houses’ skepticism.