Municipal Associations Call for State-Local Collaboration on Property Taxes, Announce Shared Service Initiative

ALBANY- New York State’s four municipal associations joined together today to call for a collaborative effort between the state and local governments to lower taxes, bring jobs to New York State, and create a vibrant state where families and businesses thrive.

The groups – representing cities, counties, towns, villages and school boards – agree that lowering property taxes should be a priority, but call for a simpler, more collaborative alternative to the governor’s tax freeze proposal.

“The governor’s tax freeze proposal as is will put a deep six on the ability of schools and local governments to provide necessary programs and services,” said Timothy G. Kremer, executive director of the New York State School Boards Association. “We all want lower property taxes, but at what cost? School boards are the ones who have to tell parents that their children won’t be able to take music lessons or participate in a school play because the music and arts programs have been cut.”

“Our four associations are here to say that we, like our members, are working together and that we need a plan for stabilizing property taxes that takes into account our unique local costs, structures  and responsibilities. Local officials can’t cut what they don’t control, and there are substantial costs in each of our budgets that stem from decisions made right here in Albany. These issues have not been addressed in the proposals discussed so far,” said New York State Conference of Mayors Executive Director Peter Baynes.

The proposed property tax freeze proposal offers homeowners a state rebate if the taxing jurisdiction stays within the tax cap and, in year two, also participate in the implementation of a county-wide Efficiency Plan.

The plan is flawed for several reasons. As is, the proposal:

  • Incentivizes local governments to increase their tax levy to the cap,
  • Fails to recognize the pre-existing predominance of shared services,
  • Is a top-down approach that will delay imminent consolidation/shared service plans,
  • Is administratively complex and costly, and lacks transparency,
  • Does not provide property tax relief to small businesses,
  • Fails to address that the cap remains a disincentive to share services, and does not exclude unexpected costs of emergencies and natural disasters.

In response, the associations are proposing a simpler and cleaner proposal that benefits all property taxpayers, allows local officials to determine how best to comply with the tax cap, and doesn’t require residents to pay higher taxes upfront and wait for a refund.

For local governments and schools that keep their levies under the tax cap, the state would provide incentive aid that would be directed to further property tax stabilization.

“To be clear, we are saying we have ideas for making our communities better, stronger places to live and work and raise a family. Our counties, local governments and schools stand ready to work with our partners at the state level to find ways to lower costs,” said New York State Association of Counties Executive Director Stephen J. Acquario. “We are working smarter and sharing services. Can we do more?  Absolutely, but we need some assistance from the state to reduce local costs and the necessary tools to allow our members to operate more efficiently and effectively.”

Joint Shared Services Initiative

In addition to their appeal to lower property taxes, the associations announced that they are creating a best practice program for local shared service initiatives taking place across the state. NYSAC, AOT, NYCOM and NYSSBA will lead a series of workshops and summits around the state to promote best practices in innovation and shared services.

“The goal of this best practice effort is to facilitate the sharing of ideas among municipalities. We want to highlight the work our members are doing to increase efficiencies and taxpayer savings through creative approaches to the challenges they face,” said Kremer.

While the state’s plan pushes local governments to increase shared services and consolidation, the truth is that local governments and school districts have been pursuing these solutions for many years.

“We surveyed our members to find out about shared service projects under way. Since then, we’ve received information about more than 1,600 shared service projects between local governments, schools and the state.” said NYCOM Executive Director Baynes. “This concept of sharing is not new to our municipalities, but we’ve never collected the initiatives or formally shared them with one another. This project will be valuable as municipal leaders across the state continue developing innovative solutions for their communities.”

Local governments and school districts have a long history of sharing services, but until now, there has been no one single place where all of these initiatives can be reviewed to determine  what has worked, how many tax dollars were saved, and the barriers that exist to implementing these types of arrangements.

According to Gerry Geist, Executive Director of AOT, “Local governments have been sharing services and consolidating functions for decades. A third of municipal services are provided via shared service arrangements and almost half of all municipalities already cooperate in the maintenance and construction of their roads and highways. Now we need to share those ideas with one another, and with the state.”

The New York State School Boards Association serves as the statewide voice of more than 700 boards of education. The collective influence of some 5,000 school board members enables the Association to work toward the benefit of the public school system in NYS.

Created in 1910, the Conference of Mayors provides powerful advocacy and support to municipal leaders, facilitates cooperation and the exchange of best practices, and promotes new solutions to municipal problems.

The New York State Association of Counties is a bipartisan municipal association serving the counties of New York State. Organized in 1925, NYSAC’s mission is to represent, educate and advocate for member counties.

The Association of Towns was formed by town officials in 1933 to help  towns obtain greater economy and efficiency.