Tuesday, May 6, 2008

More interesting reading ...

"No one starting from scratch would design a local government system like New York has
now, with its overlapping governments and rigid structure. This structure makes it
difficult – but not impossible – to define efficient service areas and to levy taxes or
assessments on those who are served. It creates some duplication of services and
functions. It creates opportunity for miscommunication and lack of coordination in
economic development and other policy areas.
Although it is not the system we would design today, it is the system we have.
Unfortunately, changing the system structurally is extraordinarily difficult: The political
hurdles in front of eliminating a village layer or merging a city and county are
extraordinarily high. City-county mergers in upstate New York would require merging
governments whose citizens are dramatically different in terms of race, poverty,
urbanicity, educational attainment, political inclination, and preferences for government
services. That doesn’t mean it cannot or should not be done, but clearly it will not easily
be done.
The quantifiable benefits of eliminating a layer or merging a city and county appear to be
low, often because of leveling up between collective bargaining agreements. Potential
cost savings, while certainly meaningful in dollar terms, can be small relative to
government budgets – on the order of 1 to 2 percent of spending, judging by available
dissolution and merger studies. While taxpayers certainly would welcome tax reductions
of this magnitude, historically they have rarely been willing to accept the intangible costs
of dissolution or consolidation for this level of tax reduction.
Each merger and dissolution situation must stand alone. New York’s local governments
vary enormously as do their service delivery and financing arrangements. Whether a
specific merger or dissolution will make sense from fiscal or other perspectives will
depend on its facts – there is no one size fits all solution. However, even if a merger or
dissolution appears sensible on its face, how it is implemented will matter. Careless
implementation can lead to inefficiency and waste.
Consolidations and dissolutions also involve a redistribution of service benefits and tax
costs. In a positive vein, one could say they involve equity issues, but another
characterization is that they produce winners and losers."

Bottom line. If you don't build trust based upon verifiable information and analysis and give citizens a sense of common purpose and inclusion, change is almost impossible.

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