County-wide shared services one way to keep property taxes low in St. Lawrence County and around state, Cuomo says
Tuesday, December 26, 2017 - 9:15 am

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo is proposing to “combat” New York’s high local property taxes by making county-wide shared services panels permanent, said a press release from his office.

Cuomo also proposes that for every dollar of money saved by local municipalities through shared services, the state could provide a one time match, spending dollar for dollar up to a budgeted amount of $225 million in 2018. This $225 million budgeted at the state level would, of course, still ultimately be paid by tax revenue, albeit statewide tax revenue.

No actual property tax cuts were part of the governor’s proposal.

His proposal also calls for easing rules which would allow the creation of municipal consortia to lower health care costs for government and municipal employees and providing tax relief aid to certain segments of the population, said a press release from Cuomo’s office.

The shared services panels, additional governmental bodies formed by municipal and county officials, are charged to look for ways for governments to reduce the size and cost of government by sharing services.

The proposal to address New York’s high property taxes is Cuomo’s 6th proposal of the 2018 State of the State.

Property taxes are among some of the highest in the nation, burdening middle-class taxpayers in New York with the typical taxpayer paying 2.5 times more in property taxes than income taxes, the press release said.

Westchester, Nassau and Rockland rank among the five highest counties in the nation for the cost of property taxes and in terms of property taxes paid as a share of home value, 13 of the 15 highest-taxed counties are in New York, primarily upstate, with Wayne, Monroe and Cattaraugus among the highest in the country.

"Here in the North Country, we know a great deal about shared services as we have been doing it for years. Even so, we can and must do more. Reducing costs is a challenge in local government, however, incentivizing shared services should motivate us to all be creative. With Governor Andrew Cuomo's continued support of shared services, the taxpayers will continue to see the benefits of local municipalities working together," Village of Massena Mayor Tim Currier said

"By expanding the Governor's shared services plan with this proposal, New York State is continuing to showcase clear ways to enhance government efficiency, and is proving to others around the country that this is the way government was intended to work. Under Governor Cuomo's leadership, Empire State taxpayers are saving time, money, and resources, and with this proposal, New Yorkers will continue to reap the benefits of shared services statewide," Village of Potsdam Mayor Ron Tischler said.

Cuomo’s proposal has several key points.

First, he proposes making the state's county-wide shared services panels permanent. Established in the governor's 2017 budget, the panels led by county governments have two years to complete their plans. The state has committed to matching the recurring property tax savings implemented by the local governments in year one.

Second, Cuomo will propose that state funding for local government performance aid will now be conditional on the continuation of shared services panels. A $125 million amount allocated in last year's state budget is authorized to plan and implement efficiencies and shared services.

The panels are led by the chief executive officer of each county and consist of city, village, town, and other local officials, including the option of school districts, and BOCES. Each panel will submit an annual bottom-up plan to the Department of State that will enhance access to the state's efficiency incentives, the governor’s press release said.

Local health insurance costs have increased significantly for local governments across the state, the press release said. Over the past 10 years, employee benefit costs for local governments have grown at an average of 5.2 percent annually and now account for more than 20 percent of local government spending. One way to lower health insurance costs is to pool local governments health plans into healthcare consortia, said the press release.

However, local governments have raised concerns that there are regulatory burdens, especially for smaller governments, that make pooling health insurance among local government legally or financially prohibitive.

Therefore, the governor’s proposal calls for the state Department of Financial Services to publish guidance and provide technical assistance to local governments in order to ease the process of creating health consortia, specifically for smaller municipalities.

The governor will additionally continue the state's local property tax relief program that he claims will provide an average reduction of $380 in local property taxes to 2.6 million homeowners this year alone.