As of Sept. 6, Ulster County Executive Mike Hein has been implementing the County-Wide Shared Services Tax Savings Plan, an initiative which allows Ulster County to participate in the Governor’s Municipal Consolidation and Efficiency Competition.
Gov. Cuomo’s new program is designed to encourage local governments to consolidate public services and reduce bureaucracy through improved intergovernmental communications, thereby improving local government efficiency. The initiative has been presented to New York communities as a “competition” because the actions local governments take to realize goals such as these will be measured against each other, culminating in a $20 million award.
According to the Governor’s official site, the competition will be made up of two phases: the first phase will consist of interested local governments submitting an intent to propose form for a chance to become eligible for plan development funding. The second phase will provide the local governments the opportunity to submit a plan for consideration by June 2017 with a winner announced in August, as stated on the site.
Long before there was an incentive for it, the New Paltz town and village governments have been exploring paths to create a joint-municipality for both governmental bodies. The two would remain separate, yet would benefit from working in the same space. Operating in the same building will lead to better communication, utility savings and better accessibility for New Paltz residents to meet with their representatives, according New Paltz Village Mayor Tim Rogers.
“A shared municipal building would be the most tangible form of shared services we can present,” said New Paltz Town Supervisor Neil Bettez. “This initiative will allow us to move towards something we have been wanting for a while.”
The County-Wide Shared Services Tax Savings Plan has been endorsed unanimously by the Shared Services Panel, as presented by Hein. Rogers and Bettez were both present at these panel meetings, where mayors and supervisors of other towns collaborated and shared ideas on how to consolidate services that cause taxpayers money.
Even if a community does not “win” the competition, Cuomo is prepared to reimburse local governments for the amount of money government bodies save by centralizing services. This money, according to both Bettez and Rogers, would be invested into saving New Paltz taxpayers money. For example, if the town board was able to end their lease on Clearwater Road and join the village board at Village Hall, the money saved from not paying rent would be matched by Cuomo and given to New Paltz.
“Once we get everyone together in one spot we can start to brainstorm even more ways of saving money,” Bettez said.
The New Paltz Police Department rents the building they operate in on South Putt Corners Road, which escalates taxes for residents as the rent increases every subsequent year.
Bettez and Rogers are exploring the possibility of moving both boards and the police department to a vacant building on North Chestnut Street, located across from My Market. If this were to come to fruition, the village would sell their current building.
“Whether we move into a new building or join the village board at their current location, we intend to create some form of a joint municipality sometime in 2018,” Bettez said.
If both bodies of government decide to move into village hall, Rogers said the building’s internet could be rewired to one system, therefore consolidating three Time Warner Spectrum accounts: the court’s, the fire department’s and the village’s. This applies to other building utilities, such as heating.
Bettez and Rogers will continue to search for new and creative ways to save taxpayers money, as encouraged by the state initiative.