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Cuomo's Request To Consolidate Towns' Services Could Be A Tough Political Sell

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Governor Andrew Cuomo is trying to save money for the state by encouraging consolidation and sharing services among towns and municipalities that are smaller than New York City, but the controversial program comes with political risks. NY1's Zack Fink filed the following report.

Governor Andrew Cuomo wants municipalities across the state to restructure their governments in order to save money.

"If you stay within the box, there is no answer within the box. That is the problem," said Cuomo. "These localities have been within the box for 20 years, and the box doesn't work."

In his first year in office, Cuomo pushed through a 2-percent cap on spending growth for all local governments, excluding New York City. But local leaders have since complained that in order to stay within that cap, much more needed to be done by the state to reduce growing annual costs.

The governor is now looking to create a financial restructuring board to work with distressed local governments.

"We're talking about reducing political overhead, reducing city councils, reducing elected officials. That's a way to save money, politically very hard," Cuomo said.

Some towns have already been forced to make painful cuts in services.

"Among our membership over the last five years, they actually, on average, they've reduced their police departments by 8 percent, the number of their police officers, and their fire departments by 5 percent. So the quality of life is already being affected," said Peter Baynes of the New York Conference Of Mayors.

Ultimately, combining firehouses and police departments with neighboring towns will have to be considered. That could mean a reduced workforce, although union leaders are already saying no to that idea, before this board has even been created.

"I am certainly hoping it would not lead to layoffs or I wouldn't be here," said Mike McManus of the New York State Professional Firefighters Association.

The financial restructuring board, which still needs legislative approval, is non-binding. That is one step below a financial control board, which could force municipalities to enact layoffs and share services.

Instead, towns will be offered $80 million in incentives to make changes.

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