The concept of municipal consolidation/shared services is referred to by some as the panacea for high property taxes. Others claim that consolidation/shared services is a pipe dream and not worth pursuing because no single service will solve our property tax problem. Both sides of this argument are wrong. No one act or reform will slash our taxes - short of major increases in other taxes. To argue that we shouldn't pursue such reforms because they won't save "enough" is to argue against doing anything to cost costs. On the contrary, the answer is we must do EVERYTHING.
Merging of municipalities is a heavy lift. People have nostalgic attachments to their town names and pride in their community identity. And if things don't go as well as planned, ain't no going back. That leaves shared services as the sweet spot - much easier to attain than wholesale municipal mergers and can generate 60 to 80% of the savings.
We must then hone in on the areas where we can get the greatest amount of savings. Things like public works and administration sound like good targets but those areas have already, frequently, been cut to the bone. One area in many municipalities that is ripe for restructuring: police.
There is a heated debate raging within our government at every level. Not as heated as the debates over toll increases or the State budget, but ultimately as significant. The debate is the one over the value and savings that might be had from our small towns merging or sharing services.
On the one hand we have our Governor and some in the legislature who argue that merging and sharing of services is THE answer to our intolerably high property taxes. On the other hand we have folks arguing that merging or the sharing of services won’t save enough $ to make it worth the work or hassle and will lead to intolerable, if not catastrophic, reductions in the government services we’ve all come to expect.