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July 13, 2011

 

DiNapoli: Localities Could Save Tens of Millions Through Shared Highway Services

Ulster County Saves Taxpayer Money With Local Agreements

Taxpayers across the state could save tens of millions of dollars a year if more local governments shared the administration of their highway operations, according to a report released today by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.  DiNapoli released the report at a press conference in Kingston, where he was joined by Ulster County Executive Mike Hein.

“There are more than 1,000 local government highway departments across New York State,” DiNapoli said. “Those departments spent $2.6 billion in 2009. There’s a great opportunity to save money, and with the enactment of the property tax cap, local governments need to look even harder at shared services.

“Ulster County increased its shared service agreements with local municipalities by 500 percent in just one year. With a combination of shared services and other efficiencies, the county reduced its 2011 budget by $2.3 million. County Executive Hein knows it can be done, and he’s doing it.”
 
New York’s 57 counties, 61 cities, 932 towns and 556 villages outside New York City reported spending nearly $2.6 billion to maintain 187,000 highway lane miles in 2009. Highway maintenance is one of the largest categories of expense for local governments, representing 7.6 percent of total local government expenditures. Nearly 80 percent of highway spending occurs at the town and county levels.

DiNapoli’s report notes some municipalities have structured formal shared service agreements, often with the help of the Department of State’s administration of the Local Government Efficiency Grant Program.

Ulster County has already implemented several shared services agreements and will expand the program in 2012.  Monroe, Jefferson and Chemung County have already decentralized, or are in the process of decentralizing, their county highway function to towns.

“I believe shared services provide an innovative way to protect taxpayers, deliver essential services and eliminate duplication,” said Ulster County Executive Mike Hein.  “The people of New York have every right to demand a new way of thinking from their government officials. I applaud Comptroller DiNapoli for his dedication to promoting shared services in New York State.”

The report also found:

  • The statewide average of highway spending per capita in 2009 was $233, with counties reporting the lowest spending per capita ($77) and cities reporting the highest ($141). Per capita spending in towns and villages was $131 and $134 respectively.
  • Costs per capita are highest for residents in the North Country Region ($361), while residents in the heavily populated Long Island Region pay the least ($165 per capita).
  • Based on aggregate highway spending reported in 2009, the average statewide cost of maintaining a lane mile was $13,841. Cities and counties tend to have higher costs per mile of road maintained ($21,966 and $20,260, respectively), followed by villages ($18,536), while towns tend to spend the least per lane mile ($9,985).
  • Based on aggregate municipal highway spending in each county, the cost of maintaining a lane mile ranges from $35,504 in Westchester County to $5,634 in Lewis County.

A copy of the full report can be seen here: http://www.osc.state.ny.us/localgov/pubs/research/snapshot/highwayspending.pdf

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