Legislative Grants to Support School District, Municipality Collaborations Statewide

By Arthur Page

Release Date: July 7, 1998

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The Institute for Local Governance and Regional Growth at the University at Buffalo has announced that 13 school-municipal partnerships throughout the state will receive legislative grants of up to $30,000.

The goal: to encourage New York State school districts and municipalities to share or consolidate services and operations, promoting efficient use of tax dollars in municipal and school administration.

The incentive grants, supported by a $335,000 legislative appropriation, were made through the 1998 Statewide Shared Services Program (SSSP) for Municipalities and School Districts. The SSSP was created by the New York State Senate Committee on Local Government and is administered by the Institute for Local Governance and Regional Growth.

Sen. Mary Lou Rath (60th District), chair of the Senate Committee on Local Government and sponsor of the SSSP, calls the 1998 program "a success in its own right and a promising sign for future efforts.

"This was the first year the SSSP has been implemented statewide, and it generated wide interest," Rath noted. "It showed us that a lot of school districts and municipalities are eager to join forces on services and make the best use of their resources.

"The statewide enthusiasm for this program is exciting, especially since it is modeled on a Western New York program. Our region, with UB's help, has provided important leadership for this effort."

The 1998 SSSP, a pilot program, is based on a successful 1996-97 demonstration project, the Municipal-School District Collaborations Program, in the 60th Senate District (Genesee and northern Erie counties). Also administered at UB, the demonstration project funded eight Western New York school-municipal partnerships for projects ranging from shared fuel facilities to alternative utility arrangements.

Following the announcement of the statewide program in February 1998, a total of 41 proposals for funding were received from municipal-school district partnerships in 24 counties throughout the state. Proposals were reviewed by a Senate-appointed committee of school and municipal officials.

Proposed project areas included computing and information technology, fuel and energy management, personnel administration and training, public safety, public works, and recreation.

John Sheffer, director of the Institute for Local Governance and Regional Growth, said the range of proposals received speaks to local governments' growing interest in collaboration.

"The 1998 SSSP showed us that school districts and municipalities -- whether villages, towns, cities, or counties -- are looking for creative ways to join forces, provide better services and save money in the process.

"Sen. Rath's support and leadership have been absolutely crucial to the SSSP," Sheffer added. "She initially saw the importance of encouraging collaboration between governance entities and across sectors. Now the value of this kind of effort is increasingly apparent, and leaders across the state are signing on.

"The institute is proud to play a role in the SSSP, and proud to help put UB's resources to work in these innovative ways."

The institute, which collaborated with Rath's office in developing the program and review process, also will issue a report on project outcomes in Summer 1999.

-- Village of Watkins Glen, Schuyler County, Watkins Glen Central Schools (Schuyler County): joint construction/management of a shared fueling facility (to include use by six other agencies) ($30,000)