Gaughan Welcomes Cuomo’s Consolidation Push
Civic leader Kevin Gaughan, who’s citizens movement seeks to reform government and revive Western New York’s economy, today expressed support for Governor Andrew Cuomo’s call for merging local governments and school districts.
Late last week, in clear, concise language, Cuomo asked local elected officials to join the effort to merge municipalities and school districts in the face of increasing budget stress, and looming insolvency of school districts.
In a letter to Cuomo (copy below), Gaughan urged the governor to continue to “encourage, cajole, and cause politicians” to support government mergers and “align our state and community with the future.”
“With 45 local governments, 417 elected officials, 29 school districts, and 184 school administrators, Erie County has the nation’s highest concentration of politicians, governments, and taxing jurisdictions” Gaughan wrote. As a result, Erie County exacts the nation’s 5th highest local taxes, out of America’s 3,086 counties.
Since 2009, has lead a movement to streamline government and align the size and cost of Western New York’s public structure with comparable regions. To date, Gaughan’s efforts have led to voters adopting downsizing measures in 3 counties, 6 towns, and 1 village, eliminating 26 elected positions, saving taxpayers $5.2 million per year, and placing Western New York in the forefront of reform.
The Hon. Andrew Cuomo
Office of the Governor
New York State Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12224
Dear Governor Cuomo:
As you know, for more than 15 years, I’ve been engaged in government reform throughout New York State, concentrating here in Western New York. In this connection, I founded several national conferences, engaged citizens in a series of public Conversations,” and conducted several studies on the number and cost of local governments.
Employing a little-known provision of state law that permits citizen-initiated referendum, since 2009 I’ve led an effort to let people decide the size and cost of their local government. This work has given rise to citizens voting to downsize government in 3 counties, 6 towns, and 1 village, eliminating 26 elected positions, saving taxpayers $4.8 million per year, and placing Buffalo Niagara in the forefront of reform.
Here in Erie County, our excessive local property taxes derive from our 25 towns, 16 villages, 3 cities, 417 elected officials, 29 school districts, and 184 school administrators, which rank among the highest concentration of governments, politicians, and taxing jurisdictions in America. As a result, every Erie County resident pays the 5th highest local taxes in the nation, out of 3,086 counties in America. Under any circumstances, this millstone of public costs would weigh heavily on the private economy. In the midst of our region’s decades-long population loss, it’s become a considerable obstacle to investment and growth.
Student enrollment has declined in 27 of Erie County’s 29 school districts. Yet spending continues to increase. Certainly, increased personnel costs contribute to school districts facing insolvency. But here in Western New York, dramatic population decline -translating into fewer property taxpayers and fewer students – is the principal culprit in the districts’ fiscal stress.
Against this backdrop, I’m pleased to hear of your renewed call last week for merger and consolidation of municipalities and school districts. In the painful narrative of New York’s 40-year history of decline, state fiscal crises informed some eras; local crises characterized others. Today, the lethal combination of state and local budget stress renders your call for consolidation the only wise course.
New York’s patchwork of municipalities and taxing districts – woven in the 19th century, which fabric has now frayed — brought our state to its economic knees. Your leadership has begun the process of reversing our fortunes by creating opportunities to consolidate governments.
I respectfully urge you to use your office to encourage, cajole, and cause public officials to support government mergers. It is the only way to reduce local costs, align our state with the future, and give our citizens a chance to succeed.
In the course of helping to cause 14 government downsizing votes these past four years, I’ve visited more than 35,000 homes throughout Western New York. Here’s what I’ve learned: New Yorkers want more say on spending and governance; they are aware of our state’s standing as America’s leader in governments and taxes; and they’re confident that if given the chance, private citizens and public servants can together devise a new local structure that will boost rather than burden our local economy.
I look forward to working with you to achieve our shared goals, and stand ready to assist your efforts in any small way I am able.
Very truly yours,