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St. Lawrence County’s highway facility plan would save money in the long run

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A plan for St. Lawrence County, the town and village of Canton, and the state to consolidate highway services is the very mind-set that municipal governments need to confront new economic realities.

Members of the St. Lawrence County Board of Legislators have returned to a proposal they previously discussed about sharing a highway facility with the town and village of Canton as well as the New York State Department of Transportation. Officials believe the county’s Highway Department building on Park Street does not serve their needs and would require substantial renovation work to upgrade it.

“A new facility would solve a number of problems and could be a way to qualify for the state property tax rebate program, said Legislator Donald A. Peck, D-Gouverneur, chairman of the Legislature’s Highway Committee,” according to a Thursday story in the Watertown Daily Times. “The tax relief program would offer rebates to property owners whose taxing jurisdictions meet certain guidelines, including making efforts to consolidate and share services.”

Officials in both the town and village of Canton have expressed support for the plan. Town Supervisor David T. Button and village Mayor Mary Ann Ashley said their colleagues are eager to explore this option.

In his executive budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo proposed offering property tax rebates to homeowners whose taxing bodies remain within the tax cap and make efforts to share or consolidate services. The plan was approved by the state Legislature in the $138 billion state budget.

More local governments will be compelled to engage in this kind of consolidating with other taxing bodies. Municipalities simply do not have the revenue they once did to independently offer as many services. Combined public safety, street maintenance, animal control and forestry departments will be common before too long.

So it’s good that St. Lawrence County and the town and village of Canton are re-examining an old plan to create a shared highway facility with the state. It’s the wave of the future in municipal governance and will save money in the long run for all taxing bodies involved.

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