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Poll shows consolidation has support in NY


Poughkeepsie, NY – The "in" phrase among many elected officials these days is shared services, and a new study shows there's hope for rightsizing government in New York. WAMC's Hudson Valley Bureau Chief Greg Fry reports...

The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion conducted a survey of more than 45-hundred New Yorkers, with the help of funding from the Dyson Foundation. The issues at hand are easy to identify - how do governments find ways to still provide essential services, as many are slashing their budgets? And is it an option to provide services in partnership with another entity or municipality?

Institute Director Lee Miringoff says the support for combining services exists, but adds that the support doesn't come along typical political lines.

Here are some of the numbers. 45 percent of New Yorkers surveyed said there are just enough local governments. 45 percent said there are too much. The rest believed there are too few governments. Those numbers change, however, when you take New York City out of the equation. 54 percent of those surveyed outside of the city say there are too many governments.

So, the numbers would lead one to believe that consolidation is a loglical option. For many municipalities it is, but the survey also found that 85 percent of those asked gave their government an average or above average grade. 60 percent say they have confidence that their local lawmakers will do what's best in their municipalities, and 55 percent say they are getting good value for the taxes they pay.

Miringoff says those numbers reflect the selection of various services, such as public transportation and recycling.

Governor Cuomo has spoken of financial incentives for governments looking to consolidate. A number of municipalities through the state - too many, in fact, to mention individually -- have sought out grants to pay for consolidation studies.

John Clarkson was the Executive Director of the New York State Commission on Local Government Efficiency and Competitiveness, which issued a report with recommendations ranging from the consolidation of justice courts, to the consolidation of services within school districts. Clarkson says full consolidation isn't the only piece of the puzzle in this debate.

When it comes to the consolidation of school districts statewide, majority support is lacking. The Marist study finds 55 percent of New Yorkers believe there are about the right amount of school districts. 22 percent say there are too many. 23 percent say there are too few.

Marist Poll, "Striking a Balance"