MuniLand

Sharing services, and struggles

By Cate Long
April 13, 2011

Rhinebeck war memorialSome of the challenges facing muniland often are legacy problems, where a certain way of doing things has existed for a long time.

I can speak directly to that.  Rhinebeck, NY, the place where I live,  has both a village and town government.

The village has about 3,000 people and the town has about 8,000.

Imagine a tiny place with two highway crews  and other duplicate town services.

Thankfully we have a merged school district.

People here have said for years that the two “municipalities” should be merged. (Actually the people saying this are those who have moved here within the last 10-15 years. Those who have lived here for generations think every thing works fine as it is.)

Joan Gralla of Reuters wrote about a study by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind which showed an overwhelming majority of voters in New Jersey backed shared services for municipalities.

Peter Woolley, a political scientist and director of the university poll, said voters appear more focused on finances.

“Given every town’s problems with tight budgets, high property taxes and pension contributions, perhaps sharing services is an idea whose time has finally come,” he said.

The release for the PublicMind study points out that the “service providers themselves are often the first ones to object to a change in how things are administered.”  Human nature is such that change is often delayed till conditions force an adjustment. Proactive change is the exception rather than the rule.

My village has been here since 1686. I often reflect on the good times and hard times villagers have faced.  The earliest came across the sea and settled in this fertile land along side the Mohican Indians. The war memorial in the photo above has the names of the local men who died in the Revolutionary War and all of our military engagements which followed.

The changes facing my village and our nation seem complex and insurmountable.  But changes must be made.  This is a time when new solutions and new opportunities give us a chance to craft a better future.

Let us pay homage to those who struggled and made changes before us.  I think we will find a little more confidence and willingness to face the changes ahead.

Comments
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As I tweeted earlier, thanks for sharing. Small towns and counties need to be educated on the rules and outcomes in muniworld. The town I was raised in floated an issue of munis for several parking garages and, until they got “educated” had no problem or a feeling for the downside of defaulting on the issue. Luckily a local broker was on the advisory board and managed to inform them as to how they would have a hard time ever getting an issue to float again.

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