Thursday, May 28, 2015

County, local governments present efficiency plan

Posted By on Thu, May 28, 2015 at 4:08 PM

Many Monroe County homeowners ought to get a check from the state this fall to help cover any increases in their local property taxes. If that sounds confusing, that's because it is.

Last year, the State Legislature passed a two-year Property Tax Freeze Credit. The state, however, has an income tax and not a property tax, which is where the whole check thing comes in. Lawmakers set up the credit to be entirely dependent on what county and local governments, as well as school districts, do in their budgets.

In order for homeowners to get the credit last year, the governments and school districts had to stay under the state's 2 percent property tax cap, which Monroe County governments did. Anyone who met eligibility requirements — their income was under $500,000 and the property was their main residence — got a check from the state.

This year, the governments in each New York county had to work together to develop an efficiency plan that, if implemented, would save a certain minimum amount of money in 2017, 2018, and 2019. Today, County Executive Maggie Brooks and representatives from several towns and villages announced that they have a plan, and that it'll be submitted to the state in time to meet the June 1 deadline.

Monroe County governments had to develop a plan that would save 1 percent each year — $5.5 million — in county and municipal spending, Brooks said. The Monroe plan accounts for over $60 million in savings, she said.

"Not only did we meet the goal laid out before us, we exceeded the goal," said Honeoye Falls Mayor Rick Milne.

But that $60 million figure comes with caveats. The governments were able to count cost-savings efforts dating back to 2012 in the plan, but the governments wanted to show that they were serious about shared and consolidated services well before then. So the plan lays out $35 million in savings from initiatives that began prior to 2012, according to Brooks.

The post-2012 figure — the one that counts — is approximately $27.5 million, and much of the savings aren't exactly new. The plan includes the county's consolidated 911 system, its public safety training facility, and the centralized library system — all of which exist already. Those initiatives count in the state eyes, however, because they're based on annual contracts between the county and municipal governments, Brooks said.

The savings also include a health insurance consortium formed by some towns, and GIS system software, which the county purchases and provides to local assessors and fire departments.

Webster Supervisor Ron Nesbitt, chair of the countywide Council of Governments, said that $10 million of the savings come from towns and villages sharing services.

But the speakers at the press conference said that the credit and tax caps aren't really what's needed to help local taxpayers — mandate reform is. 


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