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Few local governments consolidating despite push from governor

By ANNA MEILER

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) -- Gov. Cuomo has pushed for government consolidation since he was attorney general and it's a battle he continues to fight, bringing it up once again in his State of the State speech Wednesday.

But, that push hasn't gone very far. There are over 10,500 local governments in the State of New York. In 2009, Gov. Cuomo passed a law as attorney general making it easier to consolidate them, but since then only two have actually combined.

In Otsego County, the Village of Richfield Springs voted not to dissolve in October.

"We have a water, sewer, library, we have a fire department, cemetery, all things the town does not do, so there really isn't a savings," said Ron Frohne, mayor of the Village of Richfield Springs.

But, Gov. Cuomo says consolidation is a money saver and that overlapping layers of government are the reason why New York has some of the highest local taxes in the country.

"It's time to stop making excuses, it is time to start making progress. If the locality wants the state property tax credit it must perform," said Gov. Cuomo in his State of the State address.

One of those localities is the Village of Bridgewater. The mayor hopes to dissolve and become part of the town.

"If you were to combine the sum of our town taxes and our village taxes now to what it would be after the dissolution, they'll go down according to our study and they'll go down for town residents as well," said Gary Comstock, mayor of the Village of Bridgewater.

And unlike Richfield Springs, dissolution wouldn't create a loss of identity for village residents.

"You don't really define yourself as a village resident or a town resident. We all attend the same schools, we all attend the same community functions, the churches aren't defined as town or village churches, the schools. We're a community, said Comstock.

If the Village of Bridgewater dissolves, the combined town will receive a Citizen Empowerment Tax Credit from the state of over $33,000. The town would be required to return over 70 percent of that as a credit on residents' property tax bills.

The mayor feels confident residents will vote in favor of the dissolution in March.

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