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June 15, 2009 - 1:42pm

State money not a good enough reason to consolidate Batavias, says Councilman Bill Cox

posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, consolidation.

Here is the entire content of an e-mail from Batavia Councilman Bill Cox, Ward 1, on consolidation:

Here are my initial thoughts.

It took a lot of time and in-depth discussion for the consolidation committee to identify the major elements of a consolidation. That work had to be done to be able to go on from there. They did a good job putting their arms around issues. I believe the committee accomplished 50% of what ultimately needs to be done.

This committee or a new committee needs to address the other 50% which is to identify where you can consolidate operations to cut personnel, share existing equipment, share the cost of new equipment, share maintenance expense, share overhead to eliminate some management, etc.

Consolidation is all about cost savings through permanent cuts in operating costs, it is not about new revenue. Its about getting more done with less cost. Consolidating for the sole purpose of getting $923,000. in new revenue sharing from NYS is not a sufficient reason to consolidate. There is no guarantee how long it will be given. The State is in dire economic condition, and it cannot be relied on for the long term.

The report did not deal with the most significant areas that could represent real savings which is the cost to the city for police and fire protection. This represents about $6,000,000 annually. This is the area we  have to address first. We are choking in the cost to continue these services under the existing collective bargaining agreements. This appears to be taboo.

There was no mention of any real specifics how to cut anything except one or two small cost reduction references. All the debt stays the same, all the taxes are still separated, all the main cost items remain in place. The other area which dwarfs all costs is consolidation of school districts. This alone would be tremendous and it would not even require the town and city to consolidate governments.

Until real cost reduction is identified in specific amounts and departments with a solid plan of action of how and when to implement the cuts, I could not vote for consolidation as it was presented. There is insufficient information to determine if a consolidation makes sense for the tax payers.

I am strongly in favor of reducing the cost of government and one good way to do this is through consolidation, but specifics of how, what, when, where, and how much, has to be identified and agreed upon prior to proposing anything for our taxpayers to decide. We have to reduce the tremendous burden of taxes in multiple categories our taxpayers are saddled with and this report did not address how we get there.

Public meetings on consolidation will be held Thursday and again June 30 at Batavia High School. Both meetings are at 7 p.m.

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