Problem: Like many counties, Dutchess County, New York was suffering from an economic downturn several years ago.
Solution: Find ways the county could consolidate and share services with nearby cities, towns and villages.
Earlier this month, Marc Molinaro, county executive for Dutchess County, New York traveled the county to hold town hall forums on the county budget.
He had some good news to deliver: Thanks to the county’s fourth year of sharing services and eliminating duplicated programs with its 30 cities, towns and villages, as well as five participating school districts, the county will lower property taxes and save more than $27 million in the next two years.
“The county was in an economic downturn, for everybody really, and we had to think outside the box not only for us but for the municipalities as well,” said Jessica White, the county’s budget director.
Before Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) Shared Services Initiative became embedded in the state’s FY2018 budget, the county had been sharing services for decades, White said, but began formalizing the program a few years ago.
The largest savings for 2018 will come from:
- Workers’ Compensation Pool: $3.7 million
- Drug Task Force: $3.5 million
- Public Transit Services Consolidation: $1.9 million
Another $1.1 million will be saved as the county sheriff’s office assumes the role served by the Village of Wappingers Falls police.
Four years ago, the county created the Municipal Consolidation and Shared Services Grant Program, now called the Municipal Innovation Grant Program, to incentivize municipal projects that seek to consolidate services, produce shared services, eliminate an entire government entity, evaluate municipal consolidation opportunities and implementation possibilities, establish regional delivery of services or offer other efficiency improvements.
Other ideas come from within the county departments. County Executive Molinaro asks department heads to go out, “like a county government on the road,” and meet with supervisors and mayors regularly, White said.
At the meetings, they present everything the county does and let the municipalities know what’s available to them. “Any bids they’re entitled to be a part of and we have to get the word out and let them know.” Any time there are newly elected officials, the county goes out to educate them so they know how the shared services work.
Dutchess County sees the largest savings with its workers’ comp pool. New York passed a law in the 1950s to allow counties to self-insure and Dutchess County passed a law to create its own pool in 1980. Fifteen other entities participate in the plan in addition to Dutchess County, said George Salem, director of Risk Management.
“It’s a very, very lean and efficient way to provide workers’ comp services. Unlike everybody else, we contract out services.”
Some of the other ways the county shares services (and projected savings for 2018) include:
- Salt purchasing cooperative: Dutchess County completed a bid for its salt purchasing needs and has allowed municipalities to jointly purchase through the county vendor and take advantage of a $75 per ton rate that the county was able to secure. That led to projected savings of $608,132 for FY2018. Other projected savings for 2018 include:
- Shared paving via the county: $200,121
- Highway equipment rental: $27,685
- Shared electronic communication and outreach: $229,071
- Website development and maintenance: $83,465
- Workers’ compensation pool: $3.7 million.
One of the largest savings Dutchess County implemented was a cost-savings initiative that extended participation in its self-insured Workers’ Compensation Plan to local municipalities. This initiative provides savings for the county and local municipalities by pooling risk and providing plan premiums for members that are lower than rates found on the open market.
For more information, read the Dutchess Together Shared Services Tax Savings Plan here: http://bit.ly/2mIYZB3.
If you have more questions, email Budget Director Jessica White at: firstname.lastname@example.org.