Middletown Mayor Joe DeStefano wants a study on ways the city can share services with the Town of Wallkill.
DeStefano floated the idea in his State of the City speech Tuesday night. The immediate impetus for this was Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to give property tax credits to people in municipalities that make progress toward sharing services or consolidating.
DeStefano said high property taxes are a major driver for people leaving New York, and that reducing overlap in government could change that.
“We can either sit back and watch, and see (the cost of) services continue to rise,” or we can have an objective look at whether there is a savings or cost benefit to each community,” he said.
The two municipalities share some limited services now, and they’re closely tied together in other ways. The Town of Wallkill surrounds Middletown on most sides, and they blend together in areas like Route 211 and along East Main Street; much of the town has a Middletown mailing address, and people refer to and think of many areas as “Middletown” that are in the Town of Wallkill.
DeStefano said consolidating the two municipalities is a possibility that, along with others, should be examined, but he said he is not proposing they merge. He said they should look at areas where they can share services — assessment, for example, or fire protection, or snow plowing.
“There’s a whole host of things we can look at,” he said. “We need to study the relationship between the two communities.”
Wallkill Supervisor Dan Depew was open to expanding sharing in some areas, like road equipment and water and sewer services, but he said he would oppose consolidating their two governments. It wouldn’t make sense for Wallkill taxpayers, he said — the town’s budget, even when you add the costs of fire protection and water and sewer districts, is much less than the city’s.
“It’s just not going to happen,” Depew said.
Both the city and the town would have to sign off on a study; DeStefano said he would seek state money to help, too.
Cuomo has proposed giving property tax credits — thus freezing actual tax payments — in 2015 to homeowners in municipalities that stick within the state’s tax cap, and in 2016 to those in municipalities that also make progress toward sharing more services or consolidating.