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Gov. Cuomo calls for local governments to consolidate

Updated: 01/14/2014 12:58 AM
Created: 01/13/2014 11:43 PM WHEC.com
By: Lynette Adams

In his State of the State address, Governor Cuomo highlighted ways he intends to save taxpayers money including consolidating local governments. There are thousands in our state and the governor says they're costing you money.

But when it comes to consolidation, not too many municipalities want to change.

This proposal isn't new, but this year the governor is offering a two year tax freeze on property taxes. Homeowners would get a two percent rebate the first year, and in the second year, they would only get a credit if their municipality submits a plan to consolidate or share services. According to the Tax Foundation, Monroe and Wayne counties have the highest property taxes in the nation compared to the value of the homes.

Mayor Margay Blackman says, "A lot of people in the village do not want consolidation."

Blackman is the mayor of Brockport, a village which back in 2010 overwhelmingly voted down a proposal to merge with the Town of Sweden. At that time the village had just passed a six-percent tax increase. The village has consolidated some services with the town, but the mayor says a merger is not likely in the village's future.

"This has been a drum that I know the governor has been beating for a long time," says Mayor Blackman. "I think there have been only two recent examples and I think it's because there is no proof that it really works."

Governor Cuomo says the state has far too many governments, more than 10,000. And consolidation would save money and lower taxes in a state that has the highest property taxes in the nation.

In the State of the State address, Governor Cuomo says, "It's time to stop making excuses, it time to start making progress."

Some residents agree with the governor and say something needs to be done.

Mary Simonietti, of Greece, says, "I think its important to cut back and save and cut corners everywhere we can. I think it's just crucial everywhere."

State officials say the two year freeze would cost about a billion dollars a year and would benefit about 2.8 million taxpayers in Upstate alone. Kent Gardner, of the Center for Governmental Research, says consolidation can save money, reduce deplication and sometimes result in better service for residents.

Gardner says, "People have to be open to some kind of change and recognize that sometimes change can be good. Not only might they save a little money, sometimes a lot of money, but the other thing they may discover: they're actually getting better service."

But some fear what New Yorkers may lose in the process.

Rose Dunning, of Gates, says, "People choose the towns for what it has to offer and it also gives them a sense of family. And if you go large you get lost, your just another number."



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