Government officials need priorities straight

In recent years, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has picked up the pace in claiming that local governments (and their inefficiency) are the cause of high property taxes in New York state. He has also insinuated that local government officials don’t care about saving taxpayers money or don’t have the will to do it. That is not the case.

Public officials in the Fulton County region, including my colleagues on the Board of Supervisors, have been leaders in promoting government downsizing and shared services throughout the years. Our county and local municipalities worked together in the late 1980s to build a state-of-the-art system for county-wide solid waste disposal and recycling “border-to-border.”

A few years ago, we signed an agreement to accept Montgomery County’s waste to assist them and work cooperatively to bring costs down for both counties. In the 1990s, Fulton County was one of the first counties in the state to achieve a full consolidation of all E911 dispatch services into one county-level PSAP. It reduced costs for our cities by several hundred thousand dollars per year. Later in the 1990s, our county invested in an updated central fuel depot to provide shared access and savings for municipalities and school districts. Our county planning department provides contracted planning/zoning services to local governments to save money and avoid duplication of services.

Fulton County and its local governments were instrumental in forming the New York Municipal Insurance Reciprocal — one of the most successful inter-municipal cooperation initiatives in state history. Today, it includes over 850 local governments. Our county is one of only a couple that initiated two voter referendums to create county-wide consolidated assessing, only to have them both voted down handily by voters.

In 2011-12, the Board of Supervisors worked with its department heads to create and implement the Fulton County Budget Survival Strategy. This comprehensive downsizing and restructuring plan reduced the county workforce by over 30 percent and saved taxpayers several million dollars in recurring savings that are still ongoing.

Gloversville and Johnstown city officials had great foresight when they worked together decades ago to form and operate a merged Gloversville-Johnstown Joint Waste Water Treatment Plant.

In 2016, Gloversville officials partnered with the County to help create an innovative SMART Waters system to share sewer treatment and water services in our area. It was a historic accomplishment with the potential to open up new economic development opportunities throughout our region.

It is undeniable that New York state stands out for its high property taxes that are the main obstacle to economic vitality in upstate. If the governor and state legislators prioritized their energy to accomplish mandate relief, they could lower property taxes by over 50 percent and unleash an unprecedented economic revival all across the state. It’s all about priorities.

G. Michael Kinowski is the Fulton County Board of Supervisors chairman.

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