County legislator wants to start debate over consolidating lots of local governments

SYRACUSE, NY – An Onondaga County legislator says the small attempts at government consolidation haven't gone far enough, fast enough.

Democrat Tom Buckel will begin to force the issue this week, when a Legislature committee takes up his bill. It would allow the county to take on any function of any smaller local government and force the county to fight to put smaller governments out of business.

"I think the County Executive has undertaken some of those efforts to consolidate certain types of buying service but if you focus on the small things, modernization is more than just joining forces and buying salt," Buckel said of County Executive Joanie Mahoney's first efforts at cost-savings among governments.

Buckel believes there are simply too many governments in New York State -- county, city, town and village governments, but also school districts and volunteer fire departments -- all draining taxpayer dollars.

"We have to transform our community from a series of fragmented, expensive jurisdictions to one that can plan efficiently, modernize government and take advantage of resources we have," he said.

The county has forced the process of consolidation to begin with its grab of sales tax dollars that it used to share with towns, villages and schools. Those payments are being either sharply cut or phased out.

Already, the sales tax change has forced the town of Skaneateles to give up its local police dispatch center, the only one left outside of the county's 911 system. East Syracuse is considering merging its town police force. Other municipal discussions are underway as well.

Buckel's under no illusions about his proposal. He knows it will be controversial and may not get very far in the Legislature. He says he's only trying to get the issue moving.

(Hear his entire interview with WRVO's Dave Bullard, above.)