Why so many governments?

Friday, March 22, 2013
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Gov. Andrew Cuomo knows New York simply doesn’t have the money to accommodate all the cities, towns and school districts that want more money from him, nor is he even remotely inclined to raise the money through tax hikes. Tough luck, he basically told them last week — but at least he gave the struggling municipalities a way out. If only they’d listen.

New York maintains upwards of 10,000 local governments, school districts, fire and library taxing districts. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that this is a model of inefficiency — with taxpayers supporting far more bureaucracies and paying for more duplications of service, than they need to — and has been for decades.

Why has so little been done to combine these municipal service providers to make their operations more efficient? Cuomo hit the nail on the head when he cited “politics. Officials don’t want to give up their authority, workers their jobs, and even many taxpayers would rather pay more than lose what they consider their “identity”: More often than not, when there’s a vote over whether to combine a couple of school districts, or fold a village government into the town it’s located in, people say no (as they did in the Saratoga County village of Victory Tuesday).

It used to be that municipalities would simply raise taxes to finance this luxury, but thanks to Cuomo’s tax cap, their ability to do so has been reined in. It’s creating havoc and understandable resentment, since state mandates are in many ways responsible for local governments’ headaches, but the state can’t afford to take over those obligations any more than locals can afford to pay for them.

Cuomo is right that mergers would be the best solution to the problem, and he (and his predecessors) have provided a variety of financial incentives to encourage the practice. But until the public becomes less reluctant, governments won’t pursue this option.

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March 22, 2013
6:04 a.m.
muggy says...

Did you ever wonder why the government operates a bus company (CDTA, MTA, etc)?
Have you wondered why they operate ski resorts (Gore, White Face, etc)?
Why are there 3-separate police agencies patrolling my town?
Why are there 7-fire departments in my town?
Why are those fire department buildings mini Taj Mahals?
Why do I need four legislators, earning $16,000/year, representing me at the County Legislature?
Why does my town sell lawn bags, competing with Walmart, Price Chopper,
Why does the state run a television station (WMHT) that competes with the private sector (WNYT, WRGB, WTEN, WXXA, for production shoots?

There are more examples, but these are just a few that come to mind.

March 22, 2013
9:55 a.m.
ronzo says...

muggy: The reason why there exists all those things you mentioned is because that's what most people want, or don't care one way or another. Otherwise, they would do something about it. Most people gladly pay the high property taxes and school taxes and hypocritically complain about them. And then they wonder out loud why business left many years ago and why they have to give billions of $$$ in tax incentives to lure business to the state. You would think that after decades of business decay people would "get it". It makes no sense. Nor do many people here who just let it happen make sense. And when some people arrive here and discover all these little duplicate local governments and little school districts that stick it to the taxpayers that don't exist in other states, they wish they didn't move here. Like me.

March 22, 2013
10:19 a.m.
justapto says...

Look to Nevada where the counties run everything.
I also wonder why the government is in the rental business; Steinmetze Homes, Yates Village. These properties are exempt from local control, are high crime areas and are literal dumps for garbage on the exterior.
Government needs to down size and we need to push hard for consolidation. Tax exempt properties that utilize local services for free have got to stop.

March 22, 2013
11:30 a.m.
ronzo says...

justapo: Not just Nevada. All states south of Pennsylvania in the East and through the South into Arizona have county only based one local government that govern and operate one school district. Many have gone further than that and consolidated a city with the county to form one municipal government - some examples: Louisville-Jefferson, Indianapolis, Denver, Nashville, Philadelphia, Miami-Dade, etc. etc. Then there's little Schenectady County, that can fit inside many cities, with 2 villages, 1 city, 5 towns and 6 school districts. Why?

March 22, 2013
8:21 p.m.
justapto says...

The only good paying jobs in Schenectady county are those working for one of those government levels. Multiple police departments with multiple chiefs, administrations, buildings, fleets of cars. Then add in all the highway, water, sewer, fire, building departments. It takes months and multiple boards to get a building and planning permit. Ever body wants to control what the other taxpayer is doing all at the expense of the taxpayer.
No wonder all the young people are leaving, the taxes are sky high and you can't sell a house for 1/2 of its real value.
But; the band keeps playing on and on---

March 23, 2013
11:33 a.m.
muggy says...

From Mark Levin's Liberty and Tyranny, pp. 7-8: "[The federal government] is the nation's largest creditor, debtor, lender, employer, consumer, contractor, grantor, property owner, tenant, insurer, health-care provider, and pension guarantor."

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