Albany, N.Y., March 17--With a new state-level commission preparing to issue broad recommendations for local government reform in New York, the State Senate has begun approving a series of reform measures sponsored by Senator George Winner (R-C-I, Elmira) to facilitate local shared services.
The Senate unanimously approved Winner’s legislation (S.3228) recently to allow two or more adjacent towns to elect a single justice to preside over their town courts. Winner, who chairs the Legislative Commission on Rural Resources (LCRR), said that the action renews the Commission’s efforts to facilitate local shared services.
He said that shared services and other local government efficiency initiatives will play an increasingly important role in the ongoing effort to keep property taxes under control.
"This legislation would provide yet another available option for localities looking for ways to cut costs and ease the local tax burden," said Winner, adding that the initial study of sharing a town justice could qualify for a municipal shared services grant under a program currently administered by the Department of State. "We can’t ignore the potential for local governments to take their own steps toward greater efficiency and cooperation."
The state Commission on Local Government Efficiency and Competitiveness, a 15-member panel established last year to study how New York’s 4,200 local governments can provide public services more efficiently and more cooperatively in an effort to bring down local property taxes, is scheduled to issue recommendations by April 15. Winner said that the commission’s recommendations will complement the work of the LCRR.
Current state law allows for the combining of town justice courts, but Winner said that may not be convenient if it forces residents or law enforcement officers to travel a greater distance to a new, combined town court. The sharing of a single town justice by adjacent towns, as proposed under Winner’s legislation, would be more cost effective since it would maintain a justice court in each town.
Winner, a strong advocate of shared services at the local level, said that the LCRR he chairs has already made local government reform a key focus.
Winner is sponsoring a package of local reform measures including, in addition to the legislation being acted on today, initiatives to allow adjoining towns to merge into a single new town through local initiative; to authorize municipalities to initiate the mediation of land use decisions; and to authorize county highway superintendents to rent road machinery from cities, towns and villages.