Over many years, CGR has assessed the full range of local government reorganization—pairings of village/town, town/city, town/county, city/county, or two or more school districts. Structure change is often contentious, in part because reorganization frequently results in tax increases for some taxpayers and decreases for others. For instance, when a village dissolves, village residents may see their tax rate fall while town residents see an increase, even if total taxes decline. Unfortunately, this means that a change that improves efficiency and effectiveness can get blocked solely for distributional reasons.
Are there ways to mitigate these tax shifts? As a relative newcomer to New York State, I’m wondering whether or not the approach to structure change through annexation in my former home of British Columbia might resonate in this part of the world. Read more »
On January 1, 2012, the Town of Seneca Falls became a unified municipality for the first time since 1831. Communities across New York State have their eye on Seneca Falls to see what lessons can be learned from the dissolution of the historic village. As the largest village to dissolve in New York State, the process and outcomes will serve as a great test case for many years to come. However, some may be prone to draw conclusions from the outcomes that aren’t warranted.
Dissolution studies in most villages are initiated by citizens or elected officials because they believe it will save them money. The most common argument is that two layers of government are more expensive than one, and eliminating a duplicate layer must produce savings that will cause a tax bill to go down. When CGR models the fiscal impact of dissolutions cost savings are typically modest, usually in the 3-10% range. This was true in Seneca Falls as projected cost savings were a little over 7% of the combined budgets. Cost savings was not what pushed the lever in favor of dissolution. Read more »
Reaction to CGR’s survey on mayoral control, conducted with partner Metrix Matrix Inc (MMI), has reinforced what the survey revealed: Our community cares deeply about this issue and the education of our city’s children. The only prior test of community sentiment was a relatively small telephone survey of parents. Yet parents-to-be, grandparents, resident property owners, renters, and resident business owners all have a stake in the effectiveness of the schools. And all can vote in Board of Education and mayoral elections.
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