In recent months Westchester County residents have started to debate the value of having a county government.
Connecticut, Rhode Island and much of Massachusetts have no county government and property taxes in those states are less than ours.
A group, www.rethinkingwestchestergov.com, has started a web site to encourage people to reflect on the value of eliminating county government and transferring the responsibilities to local and/or state governments (which is what happened in Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts).
The goal: Reducing our property taxes and maintaining high quality services.
There is another option that we should be thinking about:
Instead of eliminating county government we could and should explore the value of merging existing county governments. Westchester, Rockland and Putnam Counties could be combined into one super regional entity. If these county governments would be merged we might be able to save many millions of dollars. Less administration, fewer commissioners, fewer lawmakers, reduced expenses, etc...
Last week the Regional Plan Association and Tri-State Transportation campaign held a forum to discuss a proposal that the MTA take over the county's Bee line bus system. Our current bus system is subsidized by Westchester residents but crosses county lines. It would make sense for the bus system to be regional (paid for by more than one county).
Westchester County residents support the Westchester Medical Center (the county guarantees the bonds). Yet, the medical center serves more than one county. A regional government that would replace the county would spread the costs to those who use it.
A larger regional governing body, to replace our current three county governments, could easily handle solid waste, health and social services.
Last year, when I helped form Rethinking Westchester, my goal was to encourage debate and discussion.
The next step:
We need a professional study to determine if abolishing county government will save taxpayers significant dollars. The study should also provide residents with a roadmap--how this will be done. In addition, a professional study should explore the benefits of combining neighboring county governments. All options to save money should be explored.
Greenburgh Town Supervisor