New York isn’t alone in struggling with the financial viability of its public nursing homes. Across the country, public nursing home operators are weighing their options in an era of diminishing state and federal reimbursement. Many counties, especially those in the Northeast, are choosing to sell, or contract out management of the homes, in order to stem financial losses.
In New York, 92% of homes had operating deficits in 2010, as CGR detailed in our in-depth report, The Future of County Nursing Homes in New York State. Financial pressures have led 8 of the 33 remaining counties with homes to decide to sell them, and another 5 to actively consider it. If all those potential sales actually occurred, New York would be left with 20 counties with nursing homes, down from 40 just 15 years ago.
From 2005 to 2009, half of states had declines in the number of public nursing homes, compared to 28% that had increases (more recent data aren’t yet available).
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According to statistics from the National Fire Protection Association and the United States Fire Administration, from 1995 to 2010:
- The number of residential building fires fell 15%.
- The number of deaths and injuries in residential fires fell 31%. [i] [ii]
- The number of paid firefighters increased by 30% and the number of volunteer firefighters decreased by 8%.[iii]
With the increase in dependence on paid staff, there has been an increase in cost for the fire service. From 1995 to 2008, the cost of Local Fire Protection has increased 65% to an inflation adjusted $39.7 billion.[iv] Read more »
School districts share needs that can be more efficiently provided regionally, just as individual schools share needs that are more affordably provided by districts. What are we to think when the State Comptroller reports that New York’s approach to regional service sharing in the schools (BOCES) costs more than it saves? Read more »
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 »
There is nothing like the IRS Form 1040 and NYS Form 201 to get you in the mood for tax reform.
We need a simpler system. Complexity is expensive by itself—we spend money simply keeping records and paying professionals to figure out what we can and can’t claim. The Taxpayer Advocate’s Service (TAS) of the National Taxpayer Advocate (appointed and funded by Congress) estimated in 2010 that taxpayers spend 6.1 billion hours filling out taxes each year (down from an estimated 7.6 billion hours in 2008, probably courtesy of tax software). 60% of Americans pay someone else to complete their tax forms. In 2008, TAS put the total cost of compliance at $163 billion, about 11% of total tax receipts. 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 »
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?
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I’ve been in a funk since the 2009-10 state budget passed. The state’s elected leaders entered the budget negotiations confronting a potential $20 billion deficit, up from the $14 billion estimated when the Governor released his original budget proposal. That is, the state would have run a $20 billion deficit in 2009-10 if spending and revenue continued without changing anything structural (like tax rates or spending formulae). The faltering economy could no longer satisfy the state’s addiction to ever-greater spending.
Given such a dire forecast, we all wondered how the state would manage to find the money to avoid a major reduction in spending. Imagine our surprise when the Legislature and Governor pulled a rabbit out of the budgetary hat and increased budgeted spending by $12 billion, nearly 9% more than in 2008-09.
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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.
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