Gov. Cuomo Touts State’s Countywide Shared Services Initiative

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo ‘s 2019 Executive Budget continues the state’s County-Wide Shared Services Initiative. The proposed budget includes a $225 million investment to help localities consolidate efforts, advances legislation permitting counties to provide zoning enforcement to localities and further empowers towns to share justices.

The County-Wide Shared Services Initiative is designed to generate property tax savings by enabling collaboration between local governments across the state. Along with additional enhancements, the zoning- and Town Justice-specific improvements were included in Cuomo’s 2019 Executive Budget at the request of local government officials. The enhancements are also part of a larger measure to make the initiative permanent.

“New York is cutting red tape and making it easier for local governments to share services, lower costs and cut property taxes for local taxpayers,” Cuomo said. “While Washington has targeted New Yorkers and seeks to raise their taxes to pay for tax cuts in other states, we continue to work with our local partners to lower them.”

The initiative tasked local government entities, led by the chief executive officer of each county outside New York City, with developing plans in 2017 or 2018 to save property taxpayers money by finding ways to reduce the costs of operating local governments.

Cuomo’s 2019 Executive Budget proposal includes the following enhancements:

¯ Invest in Shared Services: $225 million is committed in the Governor’s budget proposal as state matching funds for a one-time match for actual and demonstrable first-year savings achieved by the Shared Services Panels through new actions implemented during calendar year 2018. In addition to matching funding, future rounds of local government efficiency grants offered through the Department of State will be aligned to ensure that funding is consistent with the Panels’ efforts.

¯ Make Panels Permanent: The budget proposal will empower counties outside of New York City to maintain the momentum sparked by the CWSSI, by making the County-Wide Shared Services Panels permanent. The Panels would follow a standardized public process as required in last year’s CWSSI.

¯ Allow Town Justice Sharing: Currently, towns are only allowed to share a single justice, with state legislative approval. The Governor’s budget would ensure the decision is kept local and it would eliminate the state legislative approval. Specifically, the Uniform Justice Court Act would be amended to allow adjoining towns to share one or more justices and to streamline the local process for implementation.

¯ Provide Zoning Enforcement: The budget proposal would allow county governments to provide zoning functions at the request of a city, town or village within the county, subject to adoption of a formal agreement between the involved municipalities. This change, which requires an amendment to the Statute of Local Governments, as approved by two successive Legislatures, would help local governments that cannot afford zoning enforcement staff.

¯ Increase Stakeholders: On an annual basis, the county CEO would be able to invite any of the following to have a representative on the Shared Services Panel: school districts and boards of cooperative educational services, fire districts and fire protection districts, and special improvement districts within the county.

¯ Ensure Flexible Timelines: Panels would continue to convene to collaborate on shared services and to find property tax savings by either creating and approving a new shared services plan or updating and revising a previous plan. To maximize shared services panel flexibility, the intra-year timeline and the statutorily-prescribed format of the plan would be discontinued.

¯ Increase Public Engagement: Consistent with the current process, prior to the shared services panel voting on a plan, the county CEO would hold at least three public hearings and submit each plan to the county legislative body at least 45 days prior to a vote by the Panel. The county legislative body would review and consider each plan and may issue an advisory report. If a plan is approved, the county CEO would conduct a public presentation, disseminate the plan to the public, and send the plan to the Secretary of State, no later than 30 days from approval. If, by January 15 of any calendar year beginning in 2020, a county’s Panel did not approve a new plan in the preceding calendar year, the Panel would release to the public and transmit to the Secretary of State a statement explaining why it did not approve a new plan, including, for each vote on a plan, the vote taken by each Panel member and an explanation of their vote.

¯ Guide Health Care Consortium: The New York State Department of Financial Services will provide guidance and technical assistance to address obstacles to the formation of health care consortiums.

¯ Assist LED Street Lighting: The state will work to facilitate the installation of LED street lighting through a joint effort by the Department of Public Service, the Power Authority and New York State Energy and Research Development Authority.