ELLICOTTVILLE — More than half of Cattaraugus County’s 43 municipalities were represented Wednesday night at the first meeting of the county’s Shared Services Panel.
County Administrator Jack Searles and County Legislature Chairman Paula Stockman are co-chairs of the panel which the county was required to convene to under a provision in the 2017 state budget.
The goal of the shared services legislation is to provide additional property tax relief to municipalities that come up with new shared services plans with the county or other towns, villages or cities.
“We didn’t cause you to be here,” Searles told the nearly 30 supervisors and mayors in attendance. “It’s the result of a new state mandate.”
The meeting was held at the Ellicottville Town Center auditorium.
Stockman, R-South Dayton, said she was determined to go into the exercise “with an open mind.”
Searles asked the supervisors and village mayors who attended to discuss what kinds of shared services they are doing now and what they might be willing to consider.
“If we’re not able to come up with a plan favorable to a majority of the panel, we have to start over in 2018,” the county administrator said. On the other hand, the if state determines new shared service agreements resulted in savings, the state may match the savings. “You can have the state off your backs if we get it done in 2017,” he added.
The mayors of Olean and Salamanca did not attend the initial meeting of the panel.
The panel must submit a plan to the County Legislature by Aug. 1. The plan must contain new recurring property tax savings including the elimination of duplicate services. It must be presented to the County Legislature by Oct. 15, and three public hearings must be scheduled on it.
Many of the supervisors and mayors described shared services they already perform including road work, recreation, assessors and animal control.
Some suggested additional shared services including health and other insurance, Workmen’s Compensation, office space, police, combined justice courts and purchasing.
Searles cited an Olean Times Herald article that noted the recent cooperation between the Village of Allegany Public Works Department and City of Olean and Cattaraugus County Public Works departments to resolve an emergency sewer situation in the town.
Searles said most of the supervisors and mayors he’s talked to say they already have shared services plans, often road-related.
Allegany Supervisor John Hare said the town loans trucks to the village of Allegany, surrounding towns and the county as they are requested. There are times when the town seeks help from those municipalities. “We don’t charge each other. There’s a lot of sharing taking place. We have to develop a framework.”
Allegany Mayor Gregory Pearl pointed out the village sweeps streets and cleans catch basins for the county. The village in turn borrows a bridge crane from the county, as well as other equipment.
Leon Supervisor Fred Filock said four other area towns join with Leon to plan out two week’s worth of tarring and chipping roads. They share the cost of renting the equipment and each town provides trucks to carry stone for the chipping, he said.
The panel will meet again June 6 at 7 p.m. at the Ellicottville Town Center on Parkside Dr. The meetings are subject to the Open Meetings Law and are open to the public.
(Contact reporter Rick Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter, @RMillerOTH)