Written by Jaime L. Tomeo Friday, 17 July 2009 00:00
Shortly after Governor David Paterson signed the government consolidation bill into law, New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo announced the creation of a new interactive website to help residents learn about and use the new law.
The website, reformnygov.com, includes the method by which citizens can dissolve a government through a petition and referendum vote.
“This law empowers taxpayers by giving them a powerful new tool to cut government waste and slash the highest local taxes in the nation,” he added. “With this law, there will be greater public involvement and an opportunity for more efficient local governments across the state.”
Cuomo touts the website as a single source for information regarding the new law. The site features:
New interactive maps detailing the number of local governments and special districts in each county
Sample petitions to help citizens initiate the process
Two simple step-by-step instruction guides as to how the process works: one for citizens and another for local officials
Interactive communication features to connect citizens across the state allowing them to share ideas about reorganizing local government.
“This bill is a major step forward in our efforts to cut waste, lower the cost of doing business, and reduce our property taxes,” said Governor Paterson. “Our system of local government is outdated and overly complicated, and today we are making it easier to consolidate or dissolve local government entities. This legislation represents real reform, and will result in bottom-line savings for taxpayers.”
Residents can dissolve a town, village or special district, such as a sanitation, water district or fire district, by filing of a petition containing the signatures of at least 10 percent of the electors or 5,000 electors (whichever is less). A referendum will then be held by the residents of the government (town, village, special district) to determine whether it should be dissolved. If passed, that government or special district would have to formulate a plan within 210 days after the referendum to transfer the services to another municipality.
While this law does not give citizens the power to dissolve school districts or counties, counties can now merge or dissolve governmental agencies by passing a local law on the dissolution of a governmental agency and a county-wide referendum.
Farmingdale Village residents pay village taxes in addition to school, county and town taxes. In return, the Village of Farmingdale provides water, fire service, a zoning board, snow removal and parks to its residents.
“After 75 years of failed efforts at reform, every New Yorker can now take advantage of a powerful new tool to help cut government waste and slash the highest local taxes in the nation,” said Cuomo. “This law is all about empowering taxpayers and ushering in a new era of efficient governing and public involvement across the state.”
Assemblyman Joseph Saladino (R-Massapequa) voted against the bill, which was ultimately approved by the Assembly and Senate, stating, “The bill did not contain any language which would guarantee taxpayer savings.”