Orleans municipalities exceed benchmark for efficiency savings

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 2 June 2015 at 12:00 am

Governments say savings top $3 million annually

Photo by Tom Rivers – This photo from last Sept. 19 shows Greg Rosato, from the Orleans County Highway Department, filling the county’s paver with road material for Depot Street in the Village of Albion. The county has the only municipal-owned paver in the county and uses it for many town and village projects.

ALBION – Municipalities in Orleans County have spent the past several months documenting how they share services and functions with other municipalities, trying to put a dollar amount on those savings.

The tally is over $3 million in savings and that only includes efforts since 2012. The towns, villages and county have tried to share equipment and services long before that so the savings are actually higher, local officials said.

The state has tasked the municipalities to come up with a “Local Government Tax Efficiency Plan” to try to reduce local taxes. If municipalities can show a 1 percent savings, their property owners will be eligible for a rebate check.

In Orleans County, the four villages, 10 towns and county government take in about $27 million in taxes a year. The state told the municipalities in each county to identify at least 1 percent in savings for the total tax levies. For Orleans County, that 1 percent represents $273,001.

But the county’s efficiency plan is far greater than that: $3,207,502 in savings or $2,934,501 above the target.

“This is what we must do to survive,” said David Callard, chairman of the Orleans County Legislature. “We’re really doing some consequential things.”

The state set a target of 1 percent savings and the Orleans municipalities are at about 12 percent with their cost-cutting efforts and with shared services the past three years. Callard said he expects that percentage will be hard to beat among the other counties.

“I’m very interested in seeing how we stack up,” he said. “The county is standing very good.”

Callard, however, said the local government efficiencies have been years in the making and aren’t the result of a state decree.

“None of this is inspired by our friends in Albany,” said Chuck Nesbitt, the county’s chief administrative officer. “These are things we were doing all along.”

Callard doesn’t like the implication from the state that the local governments may be bloated with excess staff and redundant services.

“It’s infuriating that the state is putting the local governments to task when the state should be doing the same thing,” Callard said.

He believes reining in some state programs would provide much bigger tax relief.

Local taxpayers should receive small checks from the state as part of the local tax savings. That also aggravates the local officials because the state will appear to be offering the savings when it comes from the officials at the local level.

The efficiency plan from Orleans County highlights many shared services at the local level that are saving money. Some examples at the county level include:

The partnership with Genesee County, where the two counties share a public health director and three other staff, as well as a joint contract for busing disabled preschool children, has saved Orleans about $328,275 annually, Nesbitt said.

That arrangement alone has more than exceeded the 1 percent savings target for the county.

Orleans also contracts with Genesee for youth bureau administration services, which saves Orleans $13,490 a year. Genesee also provides tax mapping services to Orleans, saving Orleans $12,500 a year.

Orleans has also reduced 22 staff positions from Jan. 1, 2012 to Dec. 31, 2014, which has a annual savings of $1,020,058. This reduction does not count the 100-plus workers at the former county nursing home. That site became privately owned in January.

Selling the county nursing home and moving those employees from the public to private payroll will save taxpayers $1.5 million a year, according to the county’s efficiency plan.

At the town and village level, savings noted in the report include:

The Village of Albion counts $36,000 in savings through shared paving services with local towns and the county, and $63,000 by running Holley’s sewer plant.

Carlton included $1,300 in savings through new energy efficient lighting at the town buildings.

Clarendon replaced a full-time employee with a part-time employee at annual savings of $14,054.

The Village of Holley says it saves $40,000 a year through a contract with Albion, having Albion personnel paid to run Holley’s sewer plant rather than Holley staff or an outside company.

Kendall counts $20,000 in savings through a consolidation of fire districts. Kendall also said it saved $31,200 by sharing an assessor with Carlton, $20,000 by working to establish a health insurance consortium, and $1,000 through more efficient utilities.

Murray counts $70,000 in savings by combining fire districts.

Shelby counts $4,762 in savings new water meters that need less manpower, $3,865 in savings for joint park maintenance with Ridgeway and the Village of Medina, $1,165 in savings for joint procurement with Ridgeway and the Village of Medina, $3,026 for jointing water billing with Medina, and $385 in savings for an automatic flushing system.

Ridgeway sees $2,222 in savings through a joint purchase and ownership of an equipment trailer, $500 in savings through joint purchasing with Shelby and Medina, and $200 in benefit through energy efficient lighting.

Yates put down $500 in savings through energy efficient lighting at the town hall and highway garage.

The report provides a snapshot of some of the money-saving efforts at the local government level, Nesbitt said. He said it proved a good exercise, adding up some of those savings.

“It’s important to let the public know we are working very hard to lower their costs,” he said.