A proposal from Madison County is among a group of six finalists in New York state's municipal consolidation competition. County officials are looking at combining the highway department garages of three villages into one new facility. The state will pay for the study exploring how it can be accomplished.
Madison County Board of Supervisors Chairman John Becker says it is just one consolidation project that local officials are pursuing.
"We need to look for efficiencies wherever we can and this is part of it," Becker said. "With the governor rolling out the new consolidation plan in his budget this year, we feel this gives us a leg up and we’re kind of ahead of the game on it."
Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposed budget includes a mandate on county officials to submit plans for ways they can consolidate some of their government services to keep property taxes down. Those proposals would then go before constituents in a November referendum.
To prepare for that potential requirement, Madison County is sending out a community survey to begin assessing how county departments are performing and which of their services are duplicative. Becker says once that's complete, a steering committee made up of local officials will review the feedback.
"They’ll form a strategic plan and we’ll get on that path and correct and make efficient the things we need to and the things we don’t, we’ll leave alone," he said.
Madison County officials are also looking into combining its nearly two dozen courts into five regional courthouses. And, the town and village of Cazenovia are also exploring a potential consolidation. But Becker said there is only so much officials at the local level can do to stop raising taxes.
"Once you combine all of these efficiencies, where are you at? The cost is the cost. You can't squeeze blood out of a stone," Becker said. "So once all of this happens, the cost is going to be the cost."
Becker and other county officials in upstate, like Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente, have sought ways to consolidate local governments while encouraging the state legislature to stop passing unfunded mandates.