Municipal Shared Services: What is Working for Our Communities?

Author: John Condino

With budgets being squeezed, many communities are considering sharing services with neighboring municipalities. Saving money and eliminating government layers are usually driving forces for considering municipal consolidation or shared services, but other key driving factors involve improving access to resources and skills offering better services, and creating a sustainable future for our communities. 

Municipal representatives and their constituents are often concerned that sharing services could mean loss of control over resources, diminishing levels of service, or compromising a community’s unique identity. However, shared services can provide solutions to problems such as managing aging infrastructure, serving a shrinking or growing tax base without raising taxes, or revitalizing rural communities, simply because of the strength found in pooling finances and resources. With encouragement and funding from state government, there are more creative options being explored and successfully implemented.

A partial list of function areas that can be shared between municipalities or a region while enhancing levels of service can include:

  • Water and sewer infrastructure 
  • Administrative functions 
  • Human resource management 
  • Operations 
  • Technology and information 
  • Asset management 
  • Solid waste collection and recycling 
  • Public safety 
  • Stormwater management
  • Highway services 
  • Community services 
  • Fueling facilities 
  • Parks and recreation maintenance and development
  • Buildings and grounds 
  • Public facilities 

B&L has been involved in several studies and implementation programs involving sharing services, for example:

  • B&L is currently supporting the Town of Seneca Falls, which took over the Village of Seneca Falls’ assets, staff, and operations as of January 1,  2012 after implementing a voter-approved Dissolution Plan and subsequent Transition Plan.   You can read about the transition process and the success of this dissolution here. 
  • Monroe County Department of Environmental Services recently implemented a Multi-Agency Green Fleet Fueling Facilities system providing convenient alternative fleet fueling stations at various locations in the Rochester area available for both Monroe County and City of Rochester fleet vehicles and potentially the public.9

  • Various regional water and sewer districts, most recently:
    • The Eastern Shore Water System (Towns of Richland and Sandy Creek)

    • The Town of Aurelius/Village of Cayuga Joint Water/Sewer Project

Follow these links to see what your neighbors are doing:

Cornell Shared Services Survey –find out what is driving cooperation, and how common inter-municipal agreements really are.

PAYGo NY: Bringing Innovative Solutions to Local Government Changes – Ulster County Executive Mike Hein led a series of forums that brought municipalities together to focus on ways to share services and meet governing challenges and share some unique solutions. 

Funding Assistance is Available
Funding agencies in New York and Pennsylvania have recognized that by supporting initiatives to share services between one or more municipalities or even whole regions, operating efficiencies and financial savings can be achieved, leaving municipalities free to focus on growth and sustainability.   

  • In New York:  Local Government Efficiency (LGE) Grants – This program can be used to assist local leaders reduce municipal expenditures, limit the growth in property taxes and increase efficiencies in local service delivery. Projects can include local government reorganization, functional or service delivery consolidation, city or county charter revisions that include functional consolidation, cooperative service agreements, and establishment of regional service delivery mechanisms. The LGE is now part of NY’s Consolidated Funding Application. We have heard that 2014’s application may come out earlier than in past years, so now is the time to prepare!

  • In Pennsylvania: Municipal Assistance Program (MAP) – This program provides funding to assist local governments to plan for and efficiently implement a variety of services and improvements, and soundly manage development with an emphasis on intergovernmental approaches. Grants of up to 50 percent of eligible costs are available for three groups of activities: shared services, community planning and floodplain management, and is available through PA’s Single Application for Assistance.