Schuyler submits shared services draft plan
SCHUYLER COUNTY--All counties in the state have been tasked with developing a 2017 shared service plan from within county stakeholders to help reduce taxes and increase county governmental efficiencies.
Tim O'Hearn, Schuyler County administrator, said, "Local governments within Schuyler County have a well-documented reputation for collaboration and cooperation. The Schuyler County Council of Governments, formed in 2005 and still active and engaged, is a testament to the local commitment to improving efficiency while lowering the high cost of government in New York State."
O'Hearn added, "The primary goal of this 2017 initiative is to develop a shared services plan which creates actual and demonstrable property tax savings. Counties that are able to achieve these tax savings may be eligible for a one-time match of the net savings resulting from new actions from the plan."
The purpose of this initiative is to:
• Develop a county-wide shared service property tax savings plan to identify, propose and implement new actions to save taxpayers money through shared, coordinated and more efficient services between local governments within the county.
• Save taxpayer dollars, engage the public and have the opportunity for state match funding. Plans that create actual and demonstrable savings across multiple jurisdictions may be eligible for a one-time match of the net savings resulting from new actions implemented pursuant to the plan. The Schuyler County shared services panel was chaired by O'Hearn and comprised the mayor of each village and the supervisor of each town within the county. While invitations were extended to each school district and board of cooperative education services, none elected to participate. Below are the individuals who comprise the panel:
John VanSoest, town of Catharine; Brandon Theetge, town of Cayuta; Harold Russell, town of Dix; Alvin White, town of Hector; David Scott, town of Montour; Jim Pinkard, town of Orange; Gary Conklin, town of Reading; Donald Desrochers, town of Tyrone; Dale Walter, village of Burdett; John King, village of Montour Falls; Tom Letteer, village of Odessa; Sam Schimizzi, village of Watkins Glen; Tim O'Hearn, county administrator.
• The plan includes shared and coordinated actions that can be implemented during the 2018 calendar year.
• All proposed actions are among the county, cities, towns and villages within the county, and can be extended to include school districts should they elect to participate in the future.
• The plan contains new recurring property tax savings to be achieved through actions such as the elimination of duplicative services, shared services, the reduction of back-office administrative overhead, and the improved coordination of service.
The panel did not find any "low hanging fruit" that would produce significant, recurring new property tax savings. That is not to say proposed initiatives (Centralized Code Enforcement as an example) would not be a significant accomplishment added to an already impressive list of shared service successes. It should be noted that equally important is improving service to residents, and when this can be done while still achieving cost savings, they feel this more than meets the intent of the state mandate. In fact, examples cited by the state for consideration by counties read like a list of accomplishments already made in Schuyler County: health benefits consortia, energy purchasing consortia (MEGA), shared records management, shared facilities, shared highway equipment (informal arrangements throughout the county), reduction in back-office overhead (centralized assessment) are but a few examples.
The panel did find merit in several relatively small shared service candidates, and agreed to continue the work through the already established Council of Governments (COG) to delve deeper into a few larger shared services possibilities that require more careful analysis and consideration than can occur within the deadlines set by the State. One such example is county-wide recycling which has been deferred to the COG for additional research and possible future action.
The panel recommends including the following shared services proposals in the county's shared services plan for 2018:
Centralized Code Enforcement
To be administered by a town or village with possible county involvement consisting of the provision of office space only. Potential savings = $8,772/year.
County would provide procurement service for all municipalities. This could also be expanded to include fire protection districts should they elect to do so. Potential savings if fully implemented are estimated to be at least $50,000/year.
Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP)
Construction/Operation/Governance--This may be the most significant achievement of not only the plan but the region as a whole. A new WWTP using a regional partnership model will produce benefits that are difficult to quantify in mere dollars. The estimated annual savings to participating municipalities (both in direct and indirect measures) is $200,000/year.
The schedule for the shared service plan includes:
No later than Sept. 15, 2017 --panel votes on the plan--a majority vote of the panel is required for approval.
No later than Oct. 15, 2017 --Public presentation of the shared services plan.