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Oneida County consolidation plan leaves some wanting

Payne Horning
Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente presents the shared services plan to the Board of Legislators.

Oneida County is submitting its mandated consolidation plan to the state. The objective is to realize tax savings, but both those in favor and against the plan say it does not go far enough.

The county's shared services plan includes only three proposals to consolidate or combine government services in 2018, including consolidating the village and town of Boonville's courts, sharing DPW equipment countywide and a mowing and snowplowing agreement between Rome and Verona. The anticipated savings is $164,000 annually, about $1.56 per taxpayer. By comparison, Onondaga County submitted a plan for $5 million in savings next year.

But Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente, a longtime advocate of government consolidation, says the exercise itself was beneficial.

"It was probably something we should have undertaken a long time ago in terms of getting all of the chief electeds around the table to really have an open discussion" Picente said to the Oneida County Board of Legislators Wednesday. "It might be short in savings, but has some long-term planning throughout this county that I think is very positive."

The plan was approved by the participating city, town and village leaders 25-2. One of those no votes was the Town of Annsville Supervisor Scott Leuenberger. He said they should have waited to submit a plan next year like Oswego County is.

"Given a longer planning process and the ability to really develop bigger issues within the county and each of the local municipalities, we could have come up with greater tax savings," Leuenberger said. 

Leuenberger mentioned health benefits as an example, saying negotiating as a group instead of as individual municipalities would give them better bargaining power and thus help reduce costs. He said the idea was mentioned in the summer when the panel of county leaders met, but it was too short of a time frame to work out the complex legal details of such an idea.  

Picente says he feared that if Oneida County leaders did not come up with a plan this year, they wouldn't next year either. He plans to reconvene the panel to investigate some of the longer-term consolidation ideas they identified like sharing code enforcement officers between municipalities.

Payne Horning is a reporter and producer, primarily focusing on the city of Oswego and Oswego County. He has a passion for covering local politics and how it impacts the lives of everyday citizens. Originally from Iowa, Horning moved to Muncie, Indiana to study journalism, telecommunications and political science at Ball State University. While there, he worked as a reporter and substitute host at Indiana Public Radio. He also covered the 2015 session of the Indiana General Assembly for the statewide Indiana Public Broadcasting network.