While lawmakers debate New York’s budget in Albany, the head of Tompkins County is worried about one of the proposals.
The proposal would require local governments to come up with a way to consolidate services by November. Tompkins County Administrator Joe Mareane thinks that’s too much, too fast.
Earlier this year, Governor Cuomo proposed requiring counties to develop a plan with municipalities to share services. Cuomo said this would relieve property taxes.
The plan would then be put to voters in November. That’s a quick turnaround for Mareane. He doesn’t think municipalities have time to work through the details.
“I mean imagine we go to the voters with some kind of proposition and they ask ‘what does this mean?’, ‘how is this going to affect my town?’, ‘will it affect people?’, ‘will there be terminations?’, and we don't have answers to those questions," Mareane said. "What do you think their answers are going to be? They’re going to say it’s not ready for primetime and they’re going to vote 'no.'”
Then again, if they vote 'yes,' Mareane is worried what it means for employment. In the past, he said, consolidation has led to the loss of jobs, but mostly through attrition. Still, not having to cut anyone's position isn't a guarantee.
"The truth is when the Governor talks about shared services and consolidations, the savings occur when fewer people have to do less work," he said. "That's where the savings come."
And Mareane is skeptical of the kind of relief consolidation offers. Tompkins County has already consolidated a lot of its government with towns and villages, plus, he said, the real culprit of high property taxes is the number of state mandates. He doesn't think consolidation will get the job done.
"It could also be that the savings are pretty darn small," he explained. "Believe me, I know every dollar is meaningful, but in terms of the impact on a property tax bill, it would be negligible."
If local governments don’t come up with a plan by the election, the Cuomo Administration has said that state aid may be at risk.
If voters say “no” to a consolidation plan, Mareane said the county would have to start over.
The state budget is due April 1st