OWEGO -- As part of the state-mandated shared services plan, Tioga County held its second public hearing in order to field input and outside perspectives for potential savings from county residents.
"As part of this year's budget for the state, we are tasked with coming up with ways that real property tax savings within Tioga County could be realized," said county Attorney Peter DeWind. "And what they're talking about are ways that we can share services, eliminate duplication of services or come up with some ways to be more efficient within the towns, villages and county as a whole."
Areas that are currently being considered for consolidation are fueling stations, court services, centralized training, shared public works equipment, snow plowing, centralized county information technology services, tax bill software, countywide property assessment, code enforcement, and having the county take over bridge maintenance across the county.
"There may not be the enormous savings here in Tioga County," said DeWind. "You're not dealing with enormous budgets anyway, where you're going to be looking at half a million dollars savings shaving off some inefficiency somewhere -- I don't know if there's really that much meat on the bone here."
There is a fair amount of number crunching and different positions to be taken and considered, he continued.
The timeline for this process for this year is very, very short, said DeWind.
Legislative Chair Martha Sauerbrey explained that the goal is to whittle the list down into a plan with a few solid points that certify savings, which will be presented to the county legislature on Aug. 1.
County Budget Officer Rita Hollenbeck cautioned that though receipt of local funding from the state is no longer tied to the successful completion of a shared services agreement, it may not stay separate.
"This past year, the state budget tied it initially to your local state aid funding," said Hollenbeck. "I -- working with government for almost 30 years -- know that the writing is on the wall, that if this plan is not put into place this year or next year and we don't quantify in some way, shape or form some kind of savings within the county ... that is coming down the road. I can't say what (Cuomo) is going to actually do or get through. But it was tied initially to the shared services plan."
Following the presentation to the legislature, municipal officials from across the county will vote by Aug. 15 as to whether they support or oppose individual components of the proposed shared services plan.
Towns or villages do have the right to opt out from a particular part of a plan that does not bode well for their municipality, DeWind noted.
"It's not supposed to be an effort to disrupt municipal soverignty," DeWind said. "The ultimate savings are really just aspirational -- what we're trying to work toward. It's not a promise. There is no penalty if the savings do not actually come to fruition. We're just trying to find ways that maybe savings could be had."
DeWind also explained that a report will be put together by Oct. 15 to be sent to Albany and also made public to the community, so voters can see how their elected officials voted.
The next -- and final -- public hearing is slated for August 1, at the Spencer Village Hall at 7 p.m.
County residents with ideas for consolidation or shared services are welcome to submit them to Legislative Chair Martha Sauerbrey at email@example.com. with name and address in order to certify county residency.