Preliminary plan to cut costs, share services heads to county lawmakers

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Oneida County is proceeding with a plan for local governments to save taxpayer money by sharing services or consolidating operations.

Tuesday is the state-set deadline for the submission of a cost-saving proposal to the county Board of Legislators. A preliminary version is being distributed to the panel of representatives from local governments first convened by County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. more than a month ago to look at ways to save money through collaboration.

The document builds on ideas and possibilities that came up during the three meetings of the full panel, plus subcommittee sessions. Among the items expected to be included in the plan is a snowplowing agreement between Rome and Verona.

The county executive is charged with drawing up the plan, in consultation with the panel members. Amendments and modifications can be made at a later date.

The Oneida County Shared Services Panel is expected to meet again next month.

The plan can’t count anything that’s already been implemented, but may formalize current policies that encourage public works partnerships. Any idea has to affect at least two municipalities — it can’t be an internal change — and have a net reduction in costs.

More than 35 mayors, town supervisors, village mayors and other municipal representatives attended the initial meeting of the committee.

Four subcommittees to focus on specific areas, courts, purchasing, animal control and codes, and public works, were formed at this session.

The 2017-18 state budget enacted the Countywide Shared Services Property Tax Savings Plan Law, which requires the chief executive officer of each of the 57 counties outside of New York City to assemble a panel of public officials to develop, deliberate and vote upon countywide shared service savings plans. School districts were not included in the legislation although they often generate the largest local property tax bill compared with villages, towns and counties.

Submission of the plan then starts the clock ticking on receiving feedback from residents. Three public hearings are to be held between Aug. 1 and Sept. 15.

After the hearings have been completed and comments digested, the committee has to adopt a plan by Sept. 15 and send it to the state. Identified savings achieved in 2018 are eligible for a one-time matching amount. Similarly, plans finalized next year may be eligible for a match of savings realized in 2019.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo originally wanted to reduce state aid to municipalities that failed to develop and hold public referendums on shared services plans. However, a budget compromise kept the concept in place but left out any penalty for failure to comply. Nonetheless, counties, towns and villages that do embrace the governor’s initiative can chase a pot of money — any tax savings realized in 2018 and 2019 will be matched by the state. 

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