GLOVERSVILLE — Mayor Vince DeSantis signaled to the Common Council last week that his administration is looking for ways to save money through intermunicipal cooperation, and he wants to jump-start the county’s dormant Shared Services Panel.
During the Nov. 9 council meeting, conducted via Zoom, DeSantis said he had been contacted recently by the New York state Department of State and told that state grant funding is once again available to promote intermunicipal agreements that save local property taxpayers money.
“Any kind of intermunicipal consolidation or cooperation that saves both entities money will be matched by cash from the state department,” DeSantis said.
New York state first offered the same incentive in 2017, mandating every county and local government form shared services panels and look for ways to share government services to reduce the local property tax burden. At the time, New York state wanted the plans submitted by October of 2017, but allowed counties to take an extra year if they needed it to come up with more substantial tax savings through shared government services.
Fulton County was among the counties that chose to take the extra year to craft its tax-shavings plan, which it submitted in 2018. The plan included four projects the county could implement in 2019 and 2020, if municipalities chose to participate in them. The projects are:
- The creation of a contract-assessing unit at the county level, which could provide property-assessing services to municipalities that hire the service.
- Fulton County’s Smart Waters regional water and wastewater treatment system.
- Establishing collaboration between county government and local tax-collecting jurisdictions to utilize the same property-tax accounting and collection computer software application to promote efficiency.
- An LED Lighting Replacement project for the towns and cities of the county.
None of the shared services ideas, however, were binding in any way to the municipalities in Fulton County, and no municipality took up the county’s offer to provide contract assessing services.
New York state’s 2017-18 push to promote shared services also included the creation of a Countywide Shared Services Panel, which was to include the heads of each of the municipalities in Fulton County, including both of the Glove Cities’ mayors, but it appears the panel has not been active since the crafting of the first shared services plan in 2018.
DeSantis said he’s not been aware of any Shared Services Panel meetings or discussions since he’s served as city mayor in 2019. He said since the state is once again offering a cash incentive, it is time for Gloversville and Fulton County to look at ways of saving money through intermunicipal agreements.
“I haven’t talked to [Fulton County Administrator] Jon Stead or our county supervisors yet, because this is something I was just made aware of, but this week I intend to reach out to see if we can jump-start this,” DeSantis said on Sunday.
During the Common Council meeting on Nov. 9, DeSantis said the cash incentive being offered by the New York state Department of State will require Fulton County to comprise a new list of shared services projects, which could also include sharing services with school districts. He said one hypothetical source of savings could be a joint purchase of equipment between Gloversville and the city of Johnstown.
“If we each pay half of [the purchase cost] and we both use it to our full advantage, at the end of the year we can catalog what we saved by doing that jointly, and then the State Department will send us a check for the savings — so, we save double on the actual savings,” DeSantis said.
“It’s a way for them to incentivize intermunicipal cooperation, so I just want to make sure the public is aware of it, and that [the council and city department heads] are aware of it, because you may have ideas about intermunicipal cooperation, even the smallest thing, like sharing an officer could be used.”
Third Ward Councilwoman Betsy Batchelor asked if the cost of a position like a school district police officer could be shared.
DeSantis said he wasn’t sure of that because the Gloversville Enlarged School District pays the city money for the service provided by the officer.
DeSantis said he has had discussions with the cities of Johnstown and Amsterdam in the past about the possibility of attempting to save money through a joint asphalt-paving contract, but he’s uncertain whether that would be eligible for any New York state Department of State grants for intermunicipal savings because he believes it might be difficult to document the savings from year to year. He said purchasing a “paver,” an expensive piece of department of public works equipment might qualify.