Why Town Consolidation in NYS is a Must

Did you see this press release issued by the State Comptroller yesterday? Here’s the headline: $378,000 IN TOWN OF FAIRFIELD FUNDS MISAPPROPRIATED ON UNAUTHORIZED CHECKS PAYABLE TO THE FORMER SUPERVISOR AND HIS WIFE

Here’s the story. The former supervisor and his wife of the Town of Fairfield wrote nearly 350 checks to themselves totalling $378,000 over a 5-year period. Yes, the Comptroller caught up with them, but that’s not the point. This never should have or could have happened were it not for the fact that Fairfield is one of hundreds of towns across NYS that are too small to operate efficiently. (I’ll send anyone $1 to anyone who knows what County the Town of Fairfield is in without having to look it up.)

What’s the solution? Consolidate the state’s 932 towns into one-quarter or one-third of that number and what would you get? For one: enough tax revenue to afford modern information managment and bookkeeping systems that would prevent the all too frequent cases of fraud and abuse. You’d save on equipment and overhead costs, reducing the number of administrative buildings and staff required to govern. The extra monies could go back to the taxpayers or be used to meet real human needs.

Let’s see. Keep 932 towns so that we can keep town officials fat and happy or reduce the number of towns so that we can provide the services we’re supposed to be providing. All in favor of keeping the current number? Opposed?

The sad part of this story is that town officials belong to an association — The Association of Towns of the State of New York — whose mission is “to help obtain greater economy and efficiency”. However, this association has failed to come to terms with the FACT that the ONLY WAY their mission can be accomplished is by DRASTICALLY reducing the number of towns in NYS. They keep holding on to an out-dated world view that no longer exists and cannot be sustained.

But that’s the trouble with associations in general. Like our state legislators, association staffers are short-term occupants who find it more comfortable to defend the status quo rather than look to the needs of the future. That may work for a while, but eventually reality catches up to people. That’s when the legislator decides it’s time to get an appointment to some commission and when the association manager retires to Florida where there’s no income tax on his fat association pension.

Here’s a challenge. Prove me wrong folks! I’ll donate $100 to any association that can prove to me that they’ve come to terms with the reality that NYS cannot sustain the current number of towns, villages, cities and even counties and are working against their own short-term interest on behalf of the future of New York. I’ll print your story along with a picture of me delivering my check to your association, but I’m not holding my breath.

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