Earlier this year, the Village of East Hills held a “Meeting of the Mayors,” an event designed to bring local officials together in way to consider budgetary savings by collectively ordering goods and services.
The March 30 meeting, held in East Hills, included Michael Koblenz, mayor of East Hills; Manny Zuckerman, deputy mayor of East Hills; Jeffrey Schwartzberg, mayor of Roslyn Estates; David Mandell, mayor of Roslyn Harbor; Barbara Donno, mayor of Plandome Manor and Elaine Phillips, mayor of Flower Hill. Town of North Hempstead supervisor, Judi Bosworth, was a featured speaker. Governor Andrew Cuomo could not attend, but he did send a letter of encouragement.
There were several items on the agenda. Koblenz offered a 10 percent savings to the mayors if they joined in a road repavement program that East Hills would plan and implement. Koblenz said that engineering costs would be slashed by the joint effort and the villages would not only save money, but also set an example for other villages in Nassau County.
Town of North Hemsptead officials came up with their own savings programs. Bosworth, together with Councilman Peter Zuckerman and several commissioners, including the Superintendent of Highways Tom Tiernan, reviewed the savings the town would offer through their extensive shared services program. They include using their reverse 311 system for robocalls, consulting on security and information technology at no cost, offering grant expertise, offering the use of the town facilities for village events, cooperative purchasing opportunities, educational courses, road repaving, traffic and other signs and human resource classes.
Koblenz praised the ideas, adding that East Hills had used the town’s services for such projects as road repavement, constructing walkways, purchasing trees and extending a cement patio.
“Our purpose…is to build a crusade for cost-effectiveness and efficiencies, whether through shared services or directly in reforms within municipalities,” said Koblenz. “All of us live in a world of ever-increasing costs. Savings are essential as we strive to contain taxes and maximize services. But, as we explore the avenues to share services to save money, I want to emphasize we are clearly not the first and only group on this path. It is heartening to hear that other associations are banding together to find reform.”
Cuomo’s contribution to the meeting was a letter to Assemblyman Charles Lavine (D–Glen Cove). The letter thanked the mayors “for your partnership and commitment to helping find cost savings through shared services,” adding that “to keep our economy moving forward, it’s critical that we continue our effort to make our communities more affordable places to live and work, and shared services among our municipalities is an important part of this.”
Koblenz noted a state program designed to encourage municipal and school district savings. In year two of the program in 2016, the state, Koblenz said, will provide tax rebate checks only to homeowners who live in a locality that stays within the cap, earns less than $500,000 per year and also agrees to implement a shared services or government consolidation plan that will generate savings equal to 3 percent of the aggregate property tax levy of the participating municipalities over three years (i.e., 1 percent in year one growing to 3 percent in year three).
“The savings sought by the governor are a high standard to meet,” Koblenz acknowledged. “But whether or not we save the overall amounts set forth in the program, we still want to set an example for other counties, schools, towns and villages to follow. If these other taxing entities follow suit and they realize savings, then we will also succeed.”
At the meeting, Koblenz and two engineers, Alan Yu, of Cullen & Danowski and Ken Pritchard of Diverka and Bartilucci, explained how savings could be realized through an East Hills shared services repavement program. A plan to show savings, the participants said, must be filed by June 1, 2015 in order to obtain rebates for residents.