Mayors share state’s demand for more sharing

KINDERHOOK—The mayors of Kinderhook and Valatie attended a meeting in Albany last month hosted by the state Department of State where they learned more about a new law directing municipalities to come up with a plan to share services.

As of April 10 the state has a new law called the “County-wide Shared Services Property Tax Savings Law,” requiring local municipalities to create a plan for saving property taxes. The law also requires municipalities to have a committee or panel to review shared services.

At a special board meeting April 25 Kinderhook Mayor Jim Dunham shared with his board a letter from the state Conference of Mayors (NYCOM) about the new law. The letter says that the chief executive officers of each county outside of New York City will be responsible for the plan that will look for “‘shared, coordinated and efficient services’ among the county, cities, towns and villages within the county.”

Mayor Dunham said he assumed the chairman of the county Board of Supervisors would be “handling” the plan and that the local mayors and supervisors would sit on the panel. Stockport Supervisor Matt Murell (R) is currently the chairman of the Board of Supervisors.

At a Valatie Village Board meeting May 9, Mayor Diane Argyle said that she thought it was county Controller/Auditor Ron Caponera who was leading the planning. She said the county is hosting a meeting this week about the law.

According to the NYCOM letter, the panel will consist of “the county CEO, who shall serve as chair, and one representative from each city, town, village in the county.”

The representatives on these committees “shall be the mayor, in a village or city, or the supervisor, in a town.” The letter also says the chair may invite the local school districts to be part of the panel. As for coming up with the plan, the letter quotes the state saying, “the county CEO shall ‘regularly consult with, and take recommendations from,’ all the representatives of the panel.”

The plan calls for the committee to come up with “new recurring property tax savings” through the elimination of duplicative services, shared services, reduction office administrative overhead and better coordination of services. The letter mentions shared plowing, which is something the village already does, and “energy and insurance purchasing cooperatives.”

“Looks like this has to be done by September,” Mayor Dunham said of the plan, which must be finalized by September 15 so that county can host public hearings on the plan before it goes to the state in October.

This week, Mayor Argyle said that she met with Mr. Dunham and Kinderhook Town Supervisor Pat Grattan about sharing a water district and working together to build a water filtration plant that all three municipalities could share.

She said there is state funding for planning and for building a shared system, though she didn’t think they could make the deadline for this year’s grants. Village Attorney Rob Fitzsimmons, who is also the attorney for the Village of Kinderhook and the county Board of Supervisors, said that the village and town boards should jointly apply for funding look into the feasibility of the system.

“You get grant funding for the study,” he said, and then the municipalities can decide if they will move forward.

The letter from NYCOM suggests that there would be one-time funding to match savings generated by the plan from the state.

Ms. Argyle said Mr. Grattan and Mr. Dunham were interested in working together to make a town-wide water district but they would both have to bring the idea of sharing services back to their boards. Both villages are in the Town of Kinderhook. Currently the villages have their own water districts but several properties in the Village of Kinderhook use the Village of Valatie sewer system.

Mr. Argyle and Mr. Dunham also plan to look into grants for energy savings in street lighting.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email

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