The Debate On County Shared Services Should Be More Vocal

Too often, winning today’s political battle obscures the real discussions in our county that need to take place.

The Lakewood Village Board recently spent a large portion of two meetings debating a $3,000 cut in the village’s funding to the Lakewood Memorial Library. Falconer village and school board officials will surely pull out all the stops to fight Jamestown’s proposed annexation of land in the village. The debate over who wins or loses the annexation debate glosses over a discussion that needs to happen over shared services in southern Chautauqua County.

We are missing opportunities.

For example, the discussion over the Jamestown annexation is already falling into familiar old tropes of money grabs and tax shifts when a better avenue for discussion would be what Jamestown could do for its neighbors to save them money in exchange for the annexation of property that saves money for Jamestown and its utility ratepayers, which include Falconer and Ellicott residents, by the way. Rather than fight for $3,000, perhaps there needs to be a discussion of whether there need to be two libraries in the town of Busti. Is there enough usage to justify taxpayer funding for both? Could there be cost savings in sharing between the libraries that hasn’t been discussed yet?

These battles are fierce for a reason. For many governments there are a lot fewer taxpaying entities than there used to be, and that means money isn’t as easy to come by as it used to be. What we saw recently in Lakewood and what we are seeing between Jamestown, Falconer and Ellicott is the ensuing game of tug-of-war over money provided by you, the taxpayer. Everyone focuses on winning today’s argument when their time would be better spent calmly and methodically debating the merits of those spending priorities. That’s a shame, because the decisions we make today — and the discussions we don’t have today — can come back to bite us for decades.