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Case Study Binghamton, NY from Restoring Prosperity, August 2009 Newsletter

The Problem: Smaller industrial cities, especially in the Northeast and Midwest, are often the centers of highly fragmented regions. For example, the Miami Valley region of Ohio contains two center cities (Dayton and Springfield), four counties, and a total of 97 municipalities. This can put a fiscal strain on all the jurisdictions in a region, as services and systems are duplicated and compete against one another for funding.

The Solution: Encourage cooperation between jurisdictions on shared services and economic ventures, allowing the county government or other higher authority to act as a mediator and arbiter for appropriate agreements.

Case Study

State: New York

Policy: Binghamton, a city of 47,000 at the confluence of the Susquehanna and Chenango rivers in southern New York State, long relied on the defense industry for jobs. But the city has since fallen on fiscal hard times. In 2005, the executive of Broome County, where Binghamton is located, and the mayor of Binghamton co-convened the executives of all jurisdictions in the county to strategize about opportunities to share services. Officials identified 170 instances in which they were already informally sharing services. Having the county lead, eased tensions that might have resulted if the city had tried to introduce the concept on its own. Consolidation of some services between the city and the county has already brought benefits to Binghamton. For example, consolidation of tax collection helped Binghamton keep its AAA bond rating in 2007, which saves the city approximately $200,000 annually. The city and county have also consolidated 911 dispatch services. Now they're consolidating GIS (geographic information systems, or mapping software), which will save the city approximately $75,000 and allow more efficient sharing of information. Binghamton also benefits from regional cooperation. A sewage plant, jointly owned by the city and a neighboring municipality, is part of the Municipal Electric and Gas Alliance (MEGA), a nonprofit consortium of counties, municipalities, school districts, and other bodies. According to MEGA, Binghamton saved approximately $320,000 in electricity purchases in 2005. All these efforts to share services have begun to build a culture of goodwill and trust in the region.

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