44° Good Morning
44° Good Morning

Use every tool to reduce Long Island’s tax burden

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone holds up a

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone holds up a draft of Suffolk Share, a plan in which the county, towns and villages would try to save money under Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's initiative to get local governments to share operations. Bellone is seen at a news conference in Hauppauge, July 31, 2017. Credit: Ed Betz

Long Island didn’t become the land of a thousand governments overnight. And it’s not going to quickly overcome the inefficiencies that come with all those municipalities. But to make progress in providing services as efficiently as possible, officials must find ways to work together.

This spring Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo successfully pushed for a state law that requires counties to come up with a plan to streamline the delivery of local services with the goal of reducing taxes. Despite some grumbling, the initiative is already causing some long overdue thinking about how to merge services. The initial plans were due by Aug. 1 to the 57 county legislatures outside of New York City, and the final versions must be approved by each county’s shared-services panel by Sept. 15. Any savings from these consolidations will be matched by the state, giving the municipalities some much-needed extra cash.

Suffolk is touting systems for municipalities to work together. These include a “virtual store” where municipalities can offer and accept services, a new Office of Inter-Municipal Coordination and a shared-services newsletter. County Executive Steve Bellone estimates that Suffolk’s plan, which also has identified some specific opportunities to work together, could save the county, towns and villages as much as $37 million.

In Nassau, the focus has been on getting every town and village to identify solid opportunities. Some, like turning over county maintenance responsibilities on the part of Long Beach Road in Island Park to the village, would put small responsibilities where efficiency demands they ought to be. But other moves could be much bigger. Nassau officials say at least five villages are considering giving up their police forces for county service, and two are considering combining forces.

The massive tax burden faced by Long Islanders has to be addressed with every tool available. Sharing and consolidation are smart ways to cut waste. — The editorial board

CORRECTION: This editorial was updated Aug. 3 to say that initial plans were due by Aug. 1 to the 57 county legislatures outside of New York City, and final versions must be approved by each county’s shared-services panel by Sept. 15. In addition, Suffolk County estimates that its plan could save as much as $37 million. Incorrect details about the plan submissions, and the amount of Suffolk's estimate, appeared in the original editorial.