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Poll: Some support, little understanding on consolidation

Statewide survey finds public has reservations on merging some services

A majority of New Yorkers are in favor of government consolidation, but when it comes to saying what that means and where it should be done there are divergent opinions.

So says a Marist College/Dyson Foundation study released today. The survey, titled Striking a Balance: New Yorkers Speak Out on Rightsizing Local Government, polled 4,500 state residents by telephone, including about 500 in the Capital District. It was found 54 percent of respondents would favor consolidations in their own local government.

But an equally important discovery was how little of the public was aware of the issue. A whopping 86 percent of those polled said they had heard little or nothing about government consolidation. Also notably, about the same amount of respondents said consolidation means sharing services as those who said it constitutes merging governments.

"There are about as many ways to refer to consolidation as there is to restructure local government," said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute of Public Opinion. "People don't have a clear position, a precise meaning of what it's all about. I think people find the multiplicity of governments to not make a lot of sense."

At the same time, most New Yorkers gave their own local governments passing grades and responded negatively to the concept of dissolving them. But 54 percent of residents outside of New York City think there are too many local governments, suggesting many would like to see the trimming done away from their back yard.

The notable exception is school districts. Just 45 percent thought districts should be consolidated at all.

"They think there are too many local governments in the state, but they think there's the right amount of school districts," said Marist's Barbara Carvalho.

Robert Dyson, of the Dyson Foundation (the survey's backer), said homeowners will often feel there's a direct connection between the quality of the community and the school district that's not present with municipal services.

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