Friday, January 23, 2009

"Teamwork" . . . or Hiding Passing Costs to Others?

More nice-sounding yammering from our powers-that-be - “Think regionally” “Think teamwork" "Think positive” . . .
Those were the messages conveyed Thursday by signs flanking the dais at The Genesis Group’s annual Community Forum, and by the officials who spoke there.

The need for consolidation and cooperation, especially in the current economy, was a common theme . . .

Several officials gave examples during the forum of ways in which they already consolidate services, or plan to do so in the future.
The problem with all the warm fuzzy happy talk about "cooperation" and "consolidation" and "sharing" services becomes evident when one thinks about the reality of Mr. Reed's example:
Reed said the Town of New Hartford has taken responsibility for plowing and sanding the school district’s parking lots, for example.
While this sounds nice, the untold part of the story is that the Town of New Hartford contains parts of the New York Mills, Sauquoit Valley, and Clinton School Districts in addition to the NH School District. This means that New Hartfordians who live outside the wealthy NHCSD are subsidizing the operation of the NHCSD with their Town taxes . . . all while having to pay more in school taxes to get the parking lots of their own schools plowed and sanded.

This deal only benefits people living in the NHCSD, who are apparently better connected with the Town leaders than those in the other districts. . . A "freebie" at the expense of others.

This has been the problem with local government "regionalization" efforts in the Mohawk Valley for the last 40 years. Whenever a "regional" solution is pounced upon, somehow the jurisdictions receiving the most benefits get them by increasing expenses of people living elsewhere: "freebies" distributed through "deals" among "leaders" as though it was their own money they were spending -- but paid for through their power to tax others.

While the Water Authority, and the Sewer District are obvious examples, expansions of the functions of Town Government are also a form of "regionalization" because they "socialize costs" over a broader area.

New York Mills is a prime example of a victim of such "regionalization." Half of the people pay New Hartford Town Taxes, but what do they get for NH Taxes that they do not already get more efficiently and more cheaply from their Village? Nada, Rien, Niente, Nothing! But because half of the Village of NYM is in NH, those people get tagged to provide similar services elsewhere in the town. . . . "freebies" at NYM's expense. While some may want the village to go away to eliminate the duplication, the people living in the densely populated village areas would still be subsidizing the services that are more expensive to provide in places where the population is more spread out. . . "Sprawl" results: an inefficient distribution of population across the landscape for the purposes of providing services. County level consolidations will result in more of the same.

The babble about "teamwork" needs to stop . . . Instead, our leaders need to start the conversation about what is really needed: MERGER . . . of the jurisdictions receiving the benefits with those paying the costs.

They don't because some of them know they will be "merged" out of a job.


Greens and Beans said...

I question how the New Hartford Central School District’s strong non-instructional employee union (NYSUT) would not object to having their represented maintenance and grounds workers members displaced by allowing the Town of New Hartford to conduct snow removal services? It seems that perhaps the Union would have grounds for an employee grievance at the least, and more than likely have the basis for an Improper Practice lawsuit against the School District. But NYSUT is well known to unconditionally protect its turf. It does not seem likely that this employee organization would stand silent and allow this action to set a perilous member displacement precedent.

Assuming that the proper negotiation with the non-instructional branch of NYSUT was accomplished, this shared snow removal service could work providing the proper intergovernmental agreement was crafted to protect all School and Town taxpayers. The Town of New Hartford should have a contract with the School District to properly reimburse the Town budget for providing this service. The School District should advertise, via a Request for Proposal (RFP) and/or let out for competitive bid to provide snow removal services. This would allow the County, Town(s), Village(s) as well as private contractors to fairly bid on the contract. This would grant ALL bidders an even playing field. It would also wisely expend the minimal amount of School District tax dollars for this service. However, all bids must be competitive. The government entities should not undercut the customary fair competitive price in order not to shut out private contractors and over burden the bidding government’s taxpayers. (i.e. materials, fuel, and employee overtime costs should all be factored in on the bid) But this equalization of contractual terms is commonly expressed within the body of the RFP/contract bid proposal.

The question is; was this done?

Anonymous said...

But again today the Utica OD takes up space on the consolidation effort. Here we go again with sharing mail,joint copy machine joint purchases, and some other meaningless BS. Get to the big picture...unions, duplicate police and fire, 29 legislators, 911 services, jails just to name a few. Sounded like the same old luncheon to hear the same old BS. Get busy or get out of the way so someone else with a big picture can do something constructive.