Saturday, November 1, 2008

The (Stifled) Voice of the Voter - Part 2

We've criticised Voice of the Voter, a joint effort of the Democrat and Chronicle and WXXI, for crafting questions to shape the results of its surveys.   Here's another example, from the same recent survey.

The Democrat and Chronicle, mounting once more its favorite hobby horse, says Monroe County voters are ready for widescale consolidation of local governments.   That part makes the headline.   What doesn't is the question designed to get that result.

We're fully in favor of local government consolidation that provides substantially more efficient, more responsive local government.  But that won't happen.   Why?

Let's draw a picture, so even Gannett editorialists can understand. As an example, here's where each property tax dollar paid by the average homeowner in Penfield goes (with thanks to the reader who passed this along from the town newsletter):

So.   Let's suppose that local governments effect all of the government consolidation that the Democrat and Chronicle editorial board would like.   Resolving all possibilities in the way most favorable to advocates of consolidation, let's suppose these consolidations are 100% efficient in reducing costs of government and that 100% of this savings passes directly to taxpayers.   Suppose as well that this saves fully half the cost of both local governments (county and town) combined.

Even then, this would save the average taxpayer only 16% of his or her property tax bill.

And what question did Voice of the Voter ask to elicit the response that Monroe County residents support wholesale consolidation? :

If it meant a substantial savings in your tax bill, would you support or oppose merging some layers of county, municipal and township governments?

Sixteen percent is substantial savings?  For people who pay the highest property taxes in the country -- more than double the national average?   For New Yorkers, a 16% reduction is nowhere near substantial.   And does anyone really think that we'd get 100% cost reduction efficiency, or -- in this of all states -- that 100% of any reduction realized would really go to the taxpayer?

Look at the dollar note above.   Until school taxes are addressed, not merely by a real cap, but first by rollback, the property tax burden on Monroe County residents has no potential whatsoever for "substantial" change -- except for substantial change higher.

1 comment:

scape32 said...

I always have a hard time staying rational when addressing the issues of local government consolidation, better known as metropolitan government.

Metropolitan government proposals have nothing to do with saving taxpayer dollars allocated to providing local government services, including education.

Metropolitan government proposals, often masked by using terms like local governmental service consolidation, are an attempt to centralize decision-making and power regarding the allocation of pubic resources and regulatory affairs affecting metropolitan areas.

They are an attempt to dis-enfranchise municipalities so as to afford a broader-based legislative body the ability to decide on the larger public policy issues like regional capital budgets, taxation, land-use regulation and macro-services like water, waste disposal, police protection and road construction.

With consolidated services comes consolidated decision-making structure which enables only the larger, more well-financed political pressure groups access to the decision-making bodies allocating the public financing for those services. Citizens lose the access to public officials, legislators and politicians at the smaller level of a municipality.

I could go on, but I'd start getting irrational.

Be careful what you ask for, you might get it.