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Commission to counties: share services. “We already do that!” says Jefferson County Administrator

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The Tax Relief Commission convened by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has recommended a two-year approach to reduce property taxes in New York state.

In the first year, local governments that stay within the state’s 2 percent cap on property tax increases will earn rebate checks for their taxpayers. But the system is graduated.

During the second year, the tax rebate would be provided only to those local governments, including counties, that come up with ways to consolidate or share services.

There is no pre-scripted recommendation from the commission to how to accomplish the measure, only a directive to “get creative,” according to Olympia Sonnier, a spokeswoman for the governor’s office.

Examples provided by the governor’s office include an initiative to consolidate the police force of the town of Clay with Onondaga County. The consolidation will result in $16 million in savings over the next decade, according to the governor’s office.

Ms. Sonnier said that other measures could include the sharing of large vehicles across county lines, consolidating storage space or merging payroll departments.

Jefferson County Administrator Robert F. Hagemann III said that while he was in support of the overall objective of the commission — lowering taxes — there is at least one fundamental question that needs to be answered.

“Are local governments going to be given credit for what they’ve already done or accomplished?” Mr. Hagemann said.

Mr. Hagemann listed several areas where the county shares services with local municipalities, including with the Jefferson County dog control and code enforcement offices, the highway and planning departments, as well as with agricultural development initiatives.

The county also operates a dispatch center that handles calls for all police, fire and emergency medical services agencies within the county, and operates the airport, which serves a large region.

He also said that Jefferson County shares services with other counties when it comes to housing initiatives, public safety communication upgrades, probation departments, tourism initiatives and the Workforce Investment Board.

“There are a lot of things that we’ve undertaken on our own and not at the beck and call of New York state and for the right reasons,” Mr. Hagemann said. “Are we going to be given credit for that?”

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