Panel accepts Shared Services Plan

Gloversville Sole Assessor Joni Dennie addresses the Fulton County Shared Services Panel on Thursday at the County Office Building in Johnstown. (The Leader-Herald/Michael Anich)

JOHNSTOWN — The Fulton County Shared Services Panel on Thursday accepted its proposed 2018 Shared Services Plan that will eventually be submitted to the state, covering four main immediate areas.

“This is the first draft,” said county Administrative Officer Jon Stead, who led a panel session at the County Office Building.

The Board of Supervisors is expected to accept the draft plan at its meeting at 1 p.m. Monday, but not vote to submit a final plan to the state until September.

Panel members conducted a public hearing on Thursday, and will conduct two more required hearings at 2 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Monday at the County Office Building.

The proposed 26-page draft Shared Services Plan, with appendix, will eventually be sent to the state in some form. It contains recommendations and information for possible shared services in Fulton County for up to the next 10 years. New York state mandates counties form shared services panels to discuss ways to save money and submit a plan. The Fulton County Shared Services Panel a year ago decided to give itself an extra year to find taxpayer savings and file its shared services plan with New York state.

In the immediate years, the plan includes areas such as: contract assessing, SMART Waters regional water and wastewater system, tax collection-software sharing, and LED lighting replacement.

The draft plan says the goal of contract assessing is to form a “valuation unit” as a branch of the existing Fulton County Real Property Tax Services Agency. This service would be available to local cities and towns, at their option, via multi-year contracting with Fulton County.

If all 12 municipalities with their 33,829 parcels within the county were to join the contract approach, about $483,000 would be needed to fund a fully-staffed unit that could be attained with a chargeback fee of $14.50 per parcel.

Gloversville Sole Assessor Joni Dennie was the only public speaker at Thursday’s hearing and she spoke against contract assessing for her city.

Dennie said her city has been able to maintain a 100 percent state equalization rate the last several years. She said it might be “costly” for Gloversville to get involved in contract assessing with Fulton County — about $117,000 — just to do what it is doing now.

“The city of Gloversville also does prorated taxes,” Dennie said.

She said that effort brought in $14,237. She said the city also requires a “designated agent” for absentee landlords to get ahold of property owners.

“I don’t know if that will be done on the county level or not,” Dennie said.

The Gloversville assessor said she thinks her city might lose its “personal touch” with property owners, including seniors, if it gets into contract assessing with the county.

Stead said he can’t work up further numbers anyway about contract assessing because only two of the 12 municipalities — among the two cities and 10 towns — stand in favor. He said only the towns of Mayfield and Johnstown have expressed interest. He said an initiative like that might also require some city support.

“I did not proceed any further with the contract assessing,” Stead said. “You probably need to get at least half a dozen of the municipalities.”

A goal for SMART Waters is to create a regional system within Fulton County to coordinate water service and wastewater treatment services to promote land development economy growth in the community. Estimated final savings were put at $29.6 million, the report states.

Fulton County has already entered water and sewer agreements with the Glove Cities and the village of Broadalbin.

“We have been very successful, the Board of Supervisors, in negotiating contracts with three municipalities,” Stead said. “We’re really avoiding millions of dollars in capital infrastructure costs if we had to start from scratch.”

Tax collection software sharing’s goal is to establish “collaboration” between county government and local tax collecting jurisdictions, the draft plan says.

Stead said this effort using a certain vendor may provide “relatively small savings” for municipalities.

LED lighting replacement is an initiative that has already been in a pre-planning phase, with data packets being sent to municipal leaders within the county to solicit necessary inventory data for use by the New York Power Authority in preparing a pricing proposal.

“We are in the midst of that,” Stead told the panel.

He said this initiative is “doable” working with NYPA, possibly in 2019.

“That’s going to take us a few months,” Stead said.