Thursday, July 23, 2009


Paul and I had dinner at the Statler with NYS's AG and about 40 Dems from the Southern Tier. A lot of the discussion was about his consolidation legislation, which makes it easier for citizens to call for the dissolution of municipalities via referendum. Although I firmly believe that NYS doesn't need 10,000+ governments, our experience in Dryden leads me to suspect that this is a losing effort. We couldn't even close two primary schools with populations (then) under 100 apiece. History, possessiveness, identity, and inertia are serious barriers to this kind of change. I could see steam rising from various city, town, and village representatives around the room. But the chocolate cake was delicious.


Mary Ann said...

I was one of those steaming. The "10,000 governments" idea is misleading at best. There 10,522 taxing jurisdictions including:

1,607 governments (counties, cities, towns and villages),
996 school districts,
7,918 special authorities and improvement districts (water, sewer, lighting, etc.)

Attention should be focused on consolidating those 7,918 special districts before looking at the 1,607 municipalities that administer them.

The Town of Dryden has 17 special districts, more than our share. Special improvement districts were created at various times over past decades when neighborhoods voted to invest in services like water and sewer. Rather than spreading the cost of an improvement for one neighborhood over the whole town, a district is formed and the cost of building and maintaining the service is charged to the property owners in the district.

There is no additional cost to taxpayers outside of the special districts. However there is some cost to the special district taxpayers associated with administering each special district separately. Most districts have paid off the bonds they carried to pay for the initial construction and can now be consolidated with other districts with similar maintenance costs. That's what we're working on.

Maybe overlapping municipal services are problematic in Erie County with its 939 special districts or Onondaga with 867 districts. But here in Tompkins County I'm insulted by Cuomo's comment that towns cling to their outmoded govermnent because "they're proud of the name on their fire trucks."

KAZ said...

Yes, I agree that special districts should be the first to go. But I'm not at all insulted by the "name on the fire trucks" quip, because there have truly been vicious school district battles in the past over which school color will prevail when districts are merged. Don't underestimate people's desire to cling to what they know.

I'm glad I'm not a Town of Ithaca resident faced with the prospect of taking over the City's debt if there's a merger. But I think we'd be much better off if our (for example) town and school district boundaries matched. AG Cuomo is 100percent correct when he suggests that if we looked at a blank map today, we'd never draw the lines we have now.