Thursday, July 16, 2015

Whitestown FD: The Regionalization of Oriskany, Whitesboro Assets

People throw the word "consolidation" around a lot when it comes to local government, implying efficiencies and savings due to so-called economies of scale. Sometimes it works out that way, but other times it does not.

The latest "consolidation" under consideration is consolidation of the Oriskany and Whitesboro Village Fire Departments into a Whitestown Fire District which will serve the entire Town of Whitestown outside the Villages of New York Mills and Yorkville (which Villages decided not to participate in the scheme).   A list of alleged "pros" and short description of how this scheme would work was recently published in the Rome Sentinel. Some things stand out:
A potential decrease in the fire tax. . .

Equality of fire tax within the joint district — all pay the same fire rate. . . .

The new fire district would be run by five commissioners who are to be appointed by the town and village boards.

No doubt costs will be reduced to residents of the Town who live outside of the Villages.  Currently, the Town must negotiate contracts with the Town's Villages (Oriskany, Whitesboro,  NYM and Yorkville) for coverage in areas outside the Villages.  The Villages, which must maintain sufficient equipment to serve their Town "customer," no doubt ensure that their costs are covered during the negotiation process. These costs not only include equipment, but also transporting equipment and men the longer distances to Town locations relative to covering fires "around the corner" in the Villages.  Simply put, the cost to protect spread-out Town territory has to be more per home than the cost in densely developed Villages because greater distances must be traveled.  Town residents currently pay these additional costs associated with their service through the rates negotiated with the Villages.

But negotiations with Oriskany and Whitesboro will be eliminated by this plan. If people in Oriskany and Whitesboro will have an "equality of fire tax within the joint district," if "all pay the same fire rate," then . . .   


Voters in Oriskany and Whitesboro, beware.  Your fire assets are being "regionalized."

Update: Fault Lines: Fire District "Consolidation" . . .


Greens and Beans said...

Consolidation of intergovermental services is a great cost savings concept. But, the consolidation of public safety services in many cases is a matter of life or death. Local residents need the invaluable protection that local Fire, Police and EMT service can provide. I, being a former resident of Oriskany, can attest that their Fire and Police departments are first class. Government services consolidation would better serve the public in areas such as public works, parks, legal, finance, utilities, and procurement of goods and services. But to save a dollar by placing the protection of families and property at danger is irresponsible at best and deadly at worst.

Anonymous said...

This blog is focusing on the dollars and cents. Overall, there will be a potential to reduce apparatus which in turn will reduce the tax burden on the residents. More importantly, sharing of purchasing so both departments are on the same page when it comes to training and equipment will ensure they can work seamlessly with each other. Not to mention with the lack of new volunteers coming in the doors, it will benefit both by adding trained members. This will save money but more importantly it will ensure adequate staffing.

Strikeslip said...

Yes, Anonymous 10:58, consolidation does offer the potential to reduce apparatus, purchasing, and personnel-associated costs. And pooling the members might get around staffing problems (though existing volunteers might be called more often)

Just look at the New York Mills, Yorkville, and Whitesboro Departments: They are practically on top of each other. Do we really need three fire stations within a couple miles of each other? Probably not. . . . The same could be said for police stations . . . and perhaps also for village garages and equipment. There clearly is duplication going on and taxpayers likely are paying more than they need to.

But there are a couple other things going on here:

(1) Combination of "likes" (village departments) with an "unlike" (a new township department). A Town department does not currently exist. Ask yourself the question "Why has the Town heretofore not established its own F. D. for the areas outside of villages?" Probably because it would have been prohibitively expensive and it was just easier to contract contract with the Villages and let the Villages assume all the risks.

(2) Creation of a new unit of government answerable to appointees rather than to voters. While there may be duplication among village FDs each FD may already be sharing things with other Village departments. That sharing will end, increasing costs for the taxpayers.

We saw something similar with the regionalization of the Utica Board of Water Supply. The Water Authority no longer shares legal, engineering, other staff and equipment with the City of Utica, but must maintain its own. That increased costs. And instead of being answerable to voters, it became answerable to appointees, with representation skewed to favor jurisdictions with a lot of undeveloped land. . . . with decisions favoring developers rather than rate/tax payers.

NYM and Yorkville have already opted out of the consolidation. If it goes through, the consolidation will probably raise taxes in both those Villages because Whitestown will be less likely to use those departments. Whether Oriskany and Whitesboro are able pick up the slack is a question that needs an answer, but as noted in the main post, their residents will be assuming the cost differential of serving a Township. I only see the Town benefiting from this deal.

If there must be a consolidation of fire departments, I would rather see the Villages consolidate without the Town (combining "like" with "like"). If all Whitestown villages combined their FDs while excluding the Town, it would create a local monopoly that the Town would be forced to negotiate with. Then the Town might appreciate the true value of Village services. Right now it wants to steal them.

Anonymous said...

You mentioned . Simply put, the cost to protect spread-out Town territory has to be more per home than the cost in densely developed Villages because greater distances must be traveled. Town residents currently pay these additional costs associated with their service through the rates negotiated with the Villages. But according to the flyer handed out at the consolidated meeting with Whitesboro, Whitestown, and Oriskany boards it was was stated.... Whitestown pays $.98 per thousand and Whitesboro pays $3.28 /1000 , Oriskany $1.72/1000 . So if it cost more money to have fire protection out in the town , why is the town paying so little? Maybe it's because the contracts are negotiated and you get a better price? Were the Villages departments have the monopoly and they can charge what they want and get any what the want?

Nothing was ever mention that the Village of New York Mills offered to protect their current town area for $.05 less then what the proposed consolidated district was offering? The NYM mayor said he never even got a response from the Town! People say it's not about the money but the first bullet point on the handout states "potential decrease in fire tax". So it is about money.

As for staffing there is mutual aide. It works well .

Strikeslip said...

Thanks for posting anon 1114. I would want to know how the dollar values were calculated. Were the values per 1000 of true value or per assessed value? If true and they represent a valid apple to apple comparison, then the next question is why the disparity between village and town rates. Are the high village rates net the current income from the Town or before? Do village rates represent overspending? If so would a combined FD be any less inclined to overspend? How was the Town rate determined? If the low Town rate is based on current negotiated coverage by NYM and Yorkville, is there any reason to expect that coverage to continue at the same cost? (If two village fds will be eliminated, there will be less competition). The numbers given should not be assumed to be true, and do not make sense without more information. Is the brochure available online?

Anonymous said...;/content/Documents/File/638.pdf

That's the whole problem with this consolidation plan. There were a lot of questions that couldn't be answered because the answer was " it will be up to the commissioner ". These five people who you can't vote for because they are appointed by other elected officials , which will be political paybacks. Your right Strike, it's sounding like the MVWA all over again..... It's not consolidation it about money and territory. Another level of Goverment were they can tax and you only get a limited voice .