Plan demonstrates approximately $20 million per year in savings to taxpayers across 38 local governments; once approved by state, it should lead to rebate checks for homeowners
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz recently joined the Association of Erie County Governments in announcing the submission of an Erie County-wide government efficiency plan to New York as part of the state's property tax cap freeze credit program.
The plan is comprised of shared services, cooperative agreements and efficiencies initiated by, and among, the 38 participating local governments that have, and will continue to save local taxpayers approximately $20 million per year. Once approved, homeowners in each of the participating municipalities should receive direct property tax relief over the next two years in the form of rebate checks.
"In a display of municipal cooperation not previously seen in our community, Erie County has joined with nearly every local town and village to submit a county-wide plan demonstrating more than 80 examples of how we have been streamlining programs, cutting discretionary spending and sharing services with each other in order to ensure our taxpayers get the best 'bang for their buck,' " Poloncarz said. "Through the number of governments participating, the number of initiatives included, and the magnitude of savings we have been able to account for, we have proven that Erie County should be looked at as the model of cooperation and efficiency across the entire state.
"I would like to thank the Association of Erie County Governments, town supervisors, village mayors and all their staff for their assistance in organizing this tremendous effort and working with us for months on the plan."
Specifically, the plan includes more than 80 initiatives the participating local governments either have implemented since 2012 or will implement going forward that demonstrate real and quantifiable savings for these governments of $18,946,543 in 2017, $20,119,025 in 2018 and $21,059,348 in 2019 - tripling and nearly quadrupling the amount of savings the plan was required to show.
Poloncarz added, "It is also important to note that, as per the state's requirements, this plan only includes our efforts to save taxpayer dollars since Jan. 1, 2012 (the effective date of the state's property tax cap). There are dozens of other examples of cooperative agreements, shared services and efficiencies that we have all implemented over the past decades that are still leading to real savings for our taxpayers. For example, Erie County's creation of a health insurance aggregate in 2003 and the creation of our utility aggregate and the county-town snow plowing agreement in the 1990s has, and continues to, result in tens of millions of dollars in savings every year that were not allowed to be part of this plan."
The Erie County portion of the plan includes initiatives ranging from the establishment of the Medicaid anti-fraud unit, to reopening a public health clinic through a public-private partnership, to renegotiating labor contracts with health care concessions, to transitioning to a digital tax mapping system and creating a first-of-its-kind land bank and accounts for between $8.4 and $10.1 million of the plan total per year.
The towns and villages, likewise, have been able to save their taxpayers by eliminating duplicative positions through shared service agreements for things such as assessment services, joining various cooperatives to reduce insurance and health care costs, and seeking to provide sanitation services as efficiently as possible.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the State Legislature enacted the property tax freeze credit program as part of the 2015 state budget. As part of this program, designed to encourage local governments and school districts to generate long-term tax relief, property tax payers in qualifying municipalities will receive a "freeze credit" equal to the greater of (1) the actual increase in their property tax bill or (2) the previous year's tax bill multiplied by an inflation factor for both the 2015 and 2016 fiscal years.
In year one of the program (fiscal year 2015), taxpayers will receive the "freeze credit" if their local government(s) or school district stays within the property tax cap. In year two (FY 2016), taxpayers will receive the "freeze credit" if their local government(s) and school district stays within the property tax cap and participates in a state-approved government efficiency plan. All plans were to be submitted to the New York State Division of the Budget by June 1.
In order for a plan to qualify, local governments must include a variety of cooperative agreements, shared services, mergers and efficiencies that have been undertaken since 2012 (or will be in the immediate future) that will collectively generate savings of at least 1 percent of the combined property tax levy of all local governments participating for the fiscal years 2017-19. For the 38 local governments participating in the plan, this amounts to $6,229,864 in savings per year that needed to be demonstrated.