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 »
It stands to reason, say some, that eliminating some of the overlapping layers of local government—villages, in particular—will save lots of money. The facts are more complicated.
In CGR’s experience after studying more than three dozen communities in the last five years or so, the operational savings from a simple merger are typically modest. Yet this misses one of the important reasons for communities to review their local government structures—the capital budgets of local governments. Decisions about capital investments are often made through the lens of a single local government—the individual town, village or school district. Even though these individual governments may be running their governments efficiently, many studies show that taxpayers are paying for more buildings, more equipment, and more people to manage them than would be needed if local government services were managed by thinking regionally. Four examples illustrate this point. Read more »
On April 12 the Dyson Foundation/Marist Poll released the first statewide survey of NYS residents’ opinions on local government consolidation (see www.nylocalgov.org). While restructuring is central to Governor Cuomo’s strategy to cut the tax burden, the results suggest that change will be slow without further state action.
- Support for restructuring is hardly universal, despite the bewildering complexity of NYS local government.
- Support varies by function: Highway services are more readily shared than public safety or education—why?
- Experience shows that the status quo is hard to dislodge, even where support is strong. How might state action spur cost-effective re-invention?
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