Everyone knows all levels of government are feeling a financial crunch in a weak economy with high unemployment and rising costs.
Local officials took a step Aug. 29 to consider how cooperation among the village, town, city and county governments might offer some alleviation. They talked about sharing services and equipment, and even consolidating services or departments.
A meeting at Gloversville High School called by Gloversville Mayor Dayton King elicited a range of ideas, agreements and disagreements, and some cautions, on such services as water and sewer, police and fire, highway maintenance and assessments.
What the meeting did-and King is to be commended for this-is put out in the public forum ideas that are being informally discussed. Participants seemed to think some kinds of sharing or consolidation might increase efficiencies and reduce costs.
Johnstown Mayor Sarah Slingerland, also to her credit, made it clear that careful examination of any proposal is necessary, such as the legal and financial implications; regulations, taxes and funding; potential to save money; and the costs of study and implementation.
The idea of absorbing local governments into county government to reduce duplication and save money was scarcely considered, but some officials may be more open to consolidating services such as police and fire in Johnstown and Gloversville. We encourage localities to consider such consolidation options carefully and follow up with change, if only via small steps.
Localities have made good progress in recent years in sharing services and consolidating some government functions. For example, the cities and towns share a county demolition team; the cities have a shared wastewater treatment system; localities have reached agreements to share municipal water services; and police, fire and highway departments share equipment and resources.
If local officials want to increase efficiency, save money and possibly gain new revenues, they should continue to pursue shared services and consolidation, and see these efforts through to completion. Consolidating all local governments into one county government - as King suggested - may go too far, resulting in loss of some local control, but many sensible and feasible opportunities for cooperation still exist.