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Quackenbush receives response to challenge

Wednesday, January 29, 2014 - Updated: 11:42 AM


For the C-S-E

FONDA -- It appears Montgomery County Legislature Chairman Thomas Quackenbush’s consolidation challenge to Gov. Andrew Cuomo has received a response.

At Tuesday’s Legislature meeting, Quackenbush said the governor’s office plans to meet with legislators and Executive Matthew Ossenfort to discuss potentially using Montgomery County as a model for consolidation.

“Come and show us how to do it,” Quackenbush said. “And then we’ll take our model of this little county and we’ll show everybody what we did.”

Quackenbush called on Cuomo last week to change the focus of consolidation efforts. In return, the representatives at the governor’s office contacted him and said they like the idea. 

“They at least like talking about it,” he said.

Cuomo’s executive budget released last week includes $39 million for grants to encourage municipal consolidations, and regional services and tax credits for residents of local governments that fully dissolve or consolidate. 

Instead of having someone come in and do a study, Quackenbush would much rather be a part of a hands-on experiment.

“They preach consolidation, they continue to tell us we need to consolidate, and the state is always offering grants to do that,” Quackenbush said. “And what I’m saying is don’t give us another grant. We need help.”

Representatives of the governor’s office told Quackenbush they would be willing to meet and set up a game plan on how the county can approach the rest of the 21 municipalities -- 10 towns, 10 villages, one city -- in Montgomery County.

“It needs to start down low,” Quackenbush said. “It needs to come from the municipalities. You can’t cram it down their throats. It just doesn’t work like that.” 

Legislators on Tuesday also talked about creating a shared services committee to run parallel with the effort. Quackenbush pegged District 6 Legislator John Duchessi as the potential chair.

“This is a very difficult position,” Duchessi said. “This whole notion of consolidation, there is need for a lot of public input.”

Quackenbush wants to make sure everyone is kept aware of what is happening and plans to take baby steps.

“But I’d really like to get started,” Quackenbush said. “To let the state know we’re serious as soon as possible.”

Cuomo’s executive budget puts pressure on governments to consolidate. It calls for a freeze on property taxes for two years, subject to two conditions. 

In 2014-15, the state will provide tax rebates to homeowners with qualifying incomes of $500,000 or less who live in a jurisdiction that stays within the property tax cap. 

In order for their homeowners to get the tax credit in the second year, school districts and local governments must continue to stay within the tax cap, and must develop a plan for sharing or consolidating services, and eliminating duplication and overlap that generates savings equal to 3 percent of the tax levy within five years. 

When these plans are fully implemented, local governments and school districts could provide property tax relief of up to $1 billion. The freeze will generate an average annual tax benefit of $354 for 2.8 million beneficiaries.


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