Yesterday, former Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava spoke to local government leaders in the Adirondacks about Governor Andrew Cuomo’s campaign to reduce the number of towns, villages and school districts across New York.
“My perspective from the Local Government Unit in the Department of State is not to tell towns and villages what you need to do,” Scozzafava said.
“It’s to enter into a dialogue about how we at all different levels of government can be more effective and more efficient.”
As head of the Local Government Unit at the Department of State, Scozzafava is a leading voice on this issue.
But contrasted with Governor Cuomo’s take-no-prisoners approach to downsizing Albany, Scozzafava’s tone was downright conversational.
“It does make sense for every town and village to begin to have a discussion about how we can do things perhaps a little more efficiently regionally.”
There are currently more than 2,200 towns, villages, cities and school districts in New York. That’s far more separate local governments than you’ll find in most states with comparable populations.
Some critics have questioned whether this gentle, collaborative approach — which has been tried repeatedly over the years — will shrink that number any time soon.
Earlier this month, the Glens Falls Post Star called for the Cuomo administration to develop a much more aggressive plan for erasing overlapping or redundant levels of government.
Letting a village administer and vote on its own demise is like asking the kids to decide whether their parents should get divorced.
They’re going to stick with what’s familiar, what’s safe and what’s known. With rare exceptions, village residents are always going to support keeping the village intact, no matter how inefficient, expensive or outdated the might be.
If the state is serious about reducing the number of redundant governments and improving efficiency at the local level, it’s going to have to come up with a far more objective method than letting the affected community directly vote on it.
One might argue that Cuomo has simply adopted the old conservative strategy of forcing government efficiencies by “starving the beast.”
He’s slashing aid for local governments and school districts, while also proposing a cap on local property tax increases. We’ve already seen that approach force some local leaders into closer cost-saving partnerships.
This from the Adirondack Daily Enterprise:
[Tupper Lake school superintendent Seth McGowan] said the Tri-Lakes superintendents are looking at ramping up partnerships that would save money on things like business and administrative operations.
He wouldn’t get into specifics, but he did say there are some consolidating measures the three are looking at for the coming budget year and others for further out in the future.
“This is not a new idea,” McGowan said. “We’re only going to be doing more of it in the next year or two.”
So what do you think? Is Governor Cuomo moving fast enough to shrink the thousands of local taxing entities? Should the state even be taking on this fight?
As always, your comments welcome.