How’d you like to be a county executive, legislator or member of a board of supervisors and have to decide the future of a financially-troubled county-owned nursing home? Often one of the area’s major institutions and employers, it provides an important community service, even though typically costing the county taxpayers significant amounts of money. No matter what you decide, you’re likely to be criticized from one or more directions. That is the unpleasant reality currently being faced by public officials in counties throughout all regions of New York State.
As recently as 2005, more than 40 counties outside New York City owned and operated public nursing homes containing some 9,900 beds. Now those numbers are closer to 35 counties and 8,100 beds, and those totals are likely to dwindle further over the next few years. Why the sharp declines in such a short period of time? Rising costs and declining revenues combine to force county taxpayers to plug steadily-rising deficits. Read more »
New York swept the annual property tax competitions sponsored by the Census Bureau. Scored by the Tax Foundation, New York counties dominated the competition in the “property tax as a share of median home value” event, capturing all of the top ten places. Camden, New Jersey was pushed off the top ten after a spirited showing from New York’s Chemung County. Newcomer to the Top Ten, Chemung ranked #16 in 2007.
In the “property tax per dwelling” event, New York’s perennial champions, Nassau and Westchester counties, took the top two spots with Rockland and Putnam counties also placing. The remainder of the Top Ten was dominated by New Jersey, always a contender in the nation’s tax competition.
What a contest to win! Is there hope of ever losing this competition? What must we do to cut the cost of state and local government? Does it matter?
In unprecedented numbers, communities across the state are looking at the potential for consolidating government services, either through shared service agreements or outright merging of governments. Why? Because citizens have reached the point where the high cost of local taxes has motivated them to stand up and ask that governments reconsider in fundamental ways who should deliver services, and how.
Study after study makes it clear that consolidation is not a magic bullet for drastically reducing costs and can’t provide the 10% to 30% immediate savings that many taxpayers want. Rather, research suggests that consolidation realistically reduces total costs by 2% to 5%, which critics use to raise the question – why bother? Based on 10 studies over the past three years where the Center for Governmental Research examined shared services and consolidation in towns, villages, cities and school districts across New York, I suggest five reasons why consolidation should be considered.