New York State Assemblyman Fred Thiele, of Sag Harbor, is backing Governor Andrew Cuomo’s plan to spend $500 million of a state budget surplus on incentivizing consolidation for local municipalities—a move that could affect the East End.
Thiele says the proposed consolidation of Southampton and Tuckahoe school districts—which failed at the polls once—is a prime example of how this money could be used to promote consolidation. Consolidation is aimed at lowering property taxes by eliminating redundancies.
New York found itself with a $4.2 billion budget surplus thanks to a $4.5 billion settlement relating to mortgage practices with BNP Paribas and other banks and insurance companies, according to Thiele’s office.
“The governor has rightly stated that there is too much government in New York State and has called for consolidations and shared services at the local level,” Thiele said in a statement. “In fact, his 2-year property tax freeze enacted by the State Legislature this year requires local governments and school districts to prepare government efficiency plans in 2015. However, if the state truly wants to see such consolidations, it must put its money where its mouth is. Investing these dollars today to promote consolidation can yield a return of lower property taxes for decades to come by shrinking the numbers of local governments permanently.”
For instance, Thiele explained, a Southampton/Tuckahoe merger could generate $4 million in savings. “However, because of the differences in tax base in the two districts, one district reduces its taxes and one district sees a tax increase,” he continued. “This session, Senator [Kenneth] LaValle and I passed two pieces of legislation to mitigate and eliminate these tax impacts. The enactment of this $500 million program to incentivize consolidations could guarantee that all residents see an actual tax decrease from the savings generated by a merger. The key to any merger success is providing equal or better services at a lower cost to the taxpayer.”