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Gov. Cuomo proposes competition to encourage municipal consolidation

January 21, 2016
By Jimmy McCarthy ( , Westfield Republican

A competition geared toward municipal consolidation and efficiency in Gov. Andrew Cuomo's 2016 list of proposals is encouraging taxpayer savings.

As part of the governor's agenda, the competition is designed to reward local governments taking the necessary steps to make living and working in New York state more affordable. The competition would challenge counties, cities, towns and villages to develop innovative consolidation action plans that equate to permanent property tax reductions. The consolidation partnership that proposes and implements the greatest permanent reduction in property taxes would receive a $20 million award.

"We've made tremendous progress over the past years to make New York more affordable, and this year, we are going to keep that momentum going from the ground up," Cuomo said. "This competition will help local governments find innovative ways to reduce costs and lower taxes for their constituents - which will make it cheaper to live, work and thrive in their communities."

Cuomo's proposal would be the largest direct incentive offered to communities to jumpstart shared services. The competition would be part of $70 million designated in this year's budget to incentivize local government consolidations, reorganizations and efficiencies.

County Executive Vince Horrigan said Cuomo's proposal fits well with the county's agenda to implement regional solutions. Horrigan said the county has seen success with the North County Water District and the dissolution of Forestville in to the town of Hanover. Horrigan said municipal consolidations along with public safety and infrastructure efficiencies will be a focus moving forward.

"Chautauqua County needs to have a serious conversation to look at how we can use regional solutions or broader structures to handle some of the challenges we have, so I will be looking very closely at the governor's proposal and looking to see how we can possibly apply it to various scenarios," Horrigan said.

Local property taxes in New York have been among the highest in the country, negatively affecting economic competitiveness and quality of life. Between 2000 and 2010, property taxes grew at an unsustainable rate - more than double the rate of inflation, according to the governor's office.

In 2011, the governor enacted the property tax cap resulting in an average growth rate of approximately 2 percent during the past three years - less than half the rate of growth over the previous10 years.

The cap has strengthened in 2014 with a property tax freeze program that encouraged local governments and school districts to comply with the tax cap and develop approved government efficiency plans to reduce costs. A new property tax relief credit was created in 2015 to target an additional $1.3 billion in property tax relief for New York homeowners over the next four years.



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