CARMEL, NY – Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell facilitated the first 2018 shared services meeting for the County-wide Shared Services Initiative with the county’s town supervisors, village mayors and other stakeholders in the community at the Bureau of Emergency Services TOPS Building in Carmel on Monday, Feb. 5.

“As a home-rule state, it is up to our local municipalities what they want to participate in,” said Odell. “New York State wants us—county, town and village governments, to collectively come up with a plan to find efficiencies and eliminate redundancies through the implementation of shares service that will generate property tax savings. However, in the end each entity can determine how much they want to be involved so, it is best to use a bottoms-up approach in the plan creation process.”

According to New York State, the County-wide Shared Services Initiative was established in the fiscal year 2018 State Budget to generate property tax savings through intergovernmental collaboration. The initiative requires the creation of a shared services panel in each county, which is chaired by the County’s Chief Executive Officer and composed of City and Village Mayors, and Town Supervisors, to develop and vote on a County-wide Shared Service Property Tax Savings Plan. The CEO may invite Special Improvement Districts, school districts or BOCES to participate in the panel. The plan will create demonstrable property tax savings in 2018 or 2019, from actions identified in it.

Odell has asked BOCES, the school districts and the fire districts to be involved with the panel.

The plan must contain new recurring property tax savings from actions such as, but not limited to: the elimination of duplicative services; shared services, such as joint purchasing, shared highway equipment, shared storage facilities, shared plowing services, and energy and insurance purchasing cooperatives; reductions in back office administrative overhead; better coordination of services.

Odell asked local elected officials to take the lead on certain topics based on the Shared Services meeting that was held in June 2017—Patterson Town Supervisor Rich Williams to take on joint purchasing, including energy and insurance; Patterson Highway Supervisor Russell Goff to explore shared highway services – Russ;  Putnam Valley Town Supervisor Sam Oliverio to analyze ways to reduce back office administrative overhead and Southeast Town Councilwoman Lynne Eckhart to look into government consolidation.

Putnam County and its towns and villages already share services such as the East of Hudson Watershed Corp, law enforcement, shared email services and the Putnam County Commission for Fiscal Vision and Accountability. The state will not give credit for existing programs.

Odell is having the panel work with the Commission for Fiscal Vision and Accountability, which has already identified actions that can lead to potential cost savings. The Commission, which is a currently co-chaired by Leg. Neal Sullivan and Leg. Ginny Nacerino, is a committee that was initially formed in 2007 by the Putnam County Legislature to focus on a fiscal vision for all of Putnam County consisted of business leaders, elected officials and stakeholders. Odell, who was then a legislator, and Sullivan, who was then a private citizen, were the first co-chairs of the Commission. It was re-established in June of 2014 and again by Legislative Resolution in 2017.

Previously, the Commission identified such actions as town/village infrastructure projects, garbage/recycling services, consolidation of recreational facilities/services, school district consolidation of back office functions, police department consolidation, highway depts. sharing services, county/town organizational chart analysis, health insurance savings, energy consumption, tax assessment and electronic video appearance.

“We’ve all been working on shared services for years,” said Sullivan. “Now the important thing is that the state has gotten behind shared services. There seems to be an ability or willingness to make things happen that in the past could not be done. I think there is a real possibility for progress for initiatives we had to put aside in the past because of the obstacles that were in front of them.”  He cited the possible consolidation of courts as an example.

Odell put forth three suggests for the panel to consider for the plan—electronic video appearance, a wash bay at the transportation department and county tax assessors.

Susan Savage, a representative from the NYS Department of State, was at the meeting and said that she had heard many of the same ideas in other counties throughout the state.

“You have a pretty good head start because of your Commission on Fiscal Vision and Accountability,” Savage said. “The bottoms-up approach that you are planning to use is what we, in Albany, envisioned the counties using. In addition, we are here as a resource for you.”

The panel had until Aug. 1, to development of the initial plan, which must include certification of savings due to implementation of the plan.  Odell will then submit the plan to the Putnam County Legislature.

The Legislature will have until Sept. 15 to vote on the plan and issue an advisory report with recommendations to Odell to may modify the plan. She will then submit the plan to panel. At that time mayors or supervisors can opt out of any of the proposed actions by providing to Odell a written notice of their decision with a reason explaining the opting out.

The involvement of the public, business and civic organizations is encouraged. In addition to the Commission meetings, Odell will organize at least three public hearings on the plan.

By Oct. 15, the County Executive will have to submit the panel-approved plan to NYS, circulate the report to the residents and give a public presentation of the plan.