Consolidation of services is now a buzzword embraced by all politicians. Locally there has been some progress – this year there was a merger of the senior programs for Mamaroneck Village with those already combined for Mamaroneck Town and Larchmont Village. (See: A Merger is Coming for Larchmont & Mamaroneck Seniors.)
But the greatest enthusiasm is reserved for action at some other level of government.
Governor Paterson says villages and towns should merge and schools should cap increases. The Assembly and Senate have just passed a bill, promoted by Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, that will make it easier for counties or citizens to push consolidation on special districts, villages or towns.
Mayor Feld and Supervisor O’Keeffe, meanwhile, say the big savings can only be achieved in the school districts or by state action over mandates and pension costs. (See: Local Leaders Oppose State%u2019s Consolidation Bill.)
And Supervisor O’Keeffe is pressing Larchmont Village to merge its property tax rolls into the one kept by Mamaroneck Town.
It’s far past time for each municipal leader to stop passing the buck and to take control over those items directly under her or his control.
To begin, Mayor Feld and her board should stop stalling on a merger of the tax rolls.
Larchmont Village shares an assessor with the Town of Mamaroneck. Every Larchmont property appears on two, largely duplicative tax rolls – one for the Town and one for the Village. The data sets are largely the same, but each one has to be updated separately. This takes extra time – and time ultimately translates to money.
The merger has been under consideration for years, and seriously under consideration since at least last February when the two municipal boards held a joint meeting. (See: Tax Rolls ) Whatever is holding things up should be resolved – and quickly.
The savings won’t be large. But if the political leaders can’t solve this one, how will they ever tackle thornier issues?
Next, the three municipal boards should quit spatting over how to study consolidation and start the study. Supervisor O’Keeffe’s suggestion to convene a study group comprised of citizens and knowledgeable staffers should be implemented immediately.
The mayors recommend applying for grants to fund a consultant. So apply already. If and when the grant gets funded, the consultant can build on the work of the citizens’ committee.
It’s only by crunching the numbers that a study group -with or without a consultant’s support – can figure out exactly how much money can be saved by potential mergers in departments such as public works, fire or police.
Jim Millstein, before he left for the U.S. Treasury, promised these sorts of financial analyses. But he never delivered.
It’s time for those left on the boards to get to work and give us some numbers.
This isn’t quantum physics. The numbers should be readily available.
Set a deadline for the study to deliver a report and schedule a series of public hearings to consider the implications. With numbers in hand, the community can decide if the dollars saved are worth whatever will be lost in local control.
Talk is cheap – and cheapening. It’s time to act.
See Starting Forward, response from Larchmont Village Trustee Richard Ward.