County of Ulster, NY


2023 Proposed Budget Analysis & Review

Efficiency Strategies

Read CMA’s Printed Report

View 2023 Proposed Budget

This section focuses on efficiency strategies that will help to mitigate potential setbacks resulting from the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.  The long-term impact of the pandemic remains unclear as of the date of this Review. A particular emphasis is placed on Shared Services and Information Technology.
Shared Services

Considering the County’s recent allocation of Federal aid under the ARPA program, it would be to the benefit of the County to review shared opportunities with other local jurisdictions. The impact of ARPA funds may be increased such funds are combining with peers.

Internal Opportunities – Shared Services.  Although the County should certainly explore shared service opportunities with other local governments, the result of our Review shows that there may be internal opportunities to reduce redundancies and reduce costs.  Of these opportunities, the development of a clerical pool may prove to be the most significant. Such a pool would assist the various County departments to meet peak workload requirements, reduce overtime and enhance revenue generation.

A major impediment to cost effective delivery of governmental services is the inability of government to reassign staff between departments to meet changing needs.  This problem consists of two primary components. Foremost, employees often work in narrowly defined job titles that preclude them from performing outside tasks.  Secondly, employees are limited to work in a specific department or unit.  It is very difficult to transfer them between departments to meet changing workload or programmatic requirements. 

External Opportunities – Shared Services.  There are numerous State laws authorizing collaboration between jurisdictions.  In fact, General Municipal Law Article 5-G provides wide-ranging authority for entities to investigate such activities.  The types of joint projects that have been investigated are well documented by the state through its Local Government Services Division.  The Division includes case studies of previous projects, information on applicable state funding to offset costs and various other resources.  In addition to the Local Government Services Division, the Office of the State Comptroller and the New York State Attorney General’s Office can provide technical and legal assistance as it relates to the investigation of shared services.  Given the complex collective bargaining agreements and unique tax laws surrounding the County, the County should take advantage of State resources when considering functions for shared services. 

CMA Finding – Exploration of External Shared Service Opportunities.  The following list provides governmental functions that are commonly considered for shared service opportunities amongst local governments, which we believe could reasonably be further investigated by the County.  The timing constraints of the Review do not allow for the development of a full savings analysis relating to each of the above functions.  Although CMA believes the list provides a baseline for areas to be studied, additional analysis to quantify the level of savings would be required.

Administrative Functions

  • Accounting Functions (Staff, Payroll Processing, Software)
  • Administrative Services (Clerical Support, Data Entry, Janitorial Services)
  • Investment Of Funds
  • Records Management
  • Research And Analysis
  • Training And Education
  • Utility Services

Human Capital Management

  • Health Insurance
  • Human Resources/Personnel (Employee Benefits Management)
  • Professional Services (Engineering, Architectural, Legal Services)

General Operations

  • Equipment Sharing
  • Facilities Maintenance (Buildings, Grounds)
  • Fuel Facilities – Cooperative Fuel Agreements
  • Storage Facilities (Vehicle, Salt, Etc.)

IT Functions

  • IT Administration And Training Through The County
  • IT Security Management
  • County Developed IT Applications


  • Parks Locations
  • Park Maintenance
  • Physical Building Sharing (Municipal Buildings)

Public Safety Services

  • Emergency Management And Dispatch
  • Fire Marshal Inspections And Town Building Inspections
  • Jail Facilities, Including The Juvenile Detention Center
  • Various Police Services
  • Crossing Guards (If Not Defunded)

Constituent Services

  • Senior Programs
  • Youth Programs

Miscellaneous Services

  • Museums (If Not Privatized)
  • Tourism
  • Various Roadways

Source:  New York State Division of Local Government and School Accountability.

Information Technology

Based on focused interviews, the Information Technology (“IT”) Department of the County was found to be well qualified and capable of developing and implementing in-house applications which would likely have a significant impact on efficiency.  Despite the significant capabilities of the IT Department, many County departments are slow to implement technologies.  However, since improvements are not current expenditures, but rather efficiencies that could yield prompt cost reductions, they are discussed separately in the form of efficiency cost savings strategies to counterbalance the effects staff reductions.

According to Gartner, Inc., a research and advisory firm specializing in IT services, projects optimizing technologies can effectively reduce certain costs by up to 50%.  Furthermore, Forrester, Inc., another IT research and advisory firm, suggests that technology can be utilized to automate redundant workflow tasks.  Automation is projected to reduce the time spent on those tasks by upwards of 60%, with an additional 20% reduction in the time taken to manage and support those tasks.  These potential efficiencies are considered significant to the County for two reasons.  First, considering the recommended cost reductions and hiring freeze, the County will need to find ways to do more with fewer resources and staff.  By automating certain functions, it is reasonable to assume the workforce will be better able to focus its efforts, mitigating the effects of decreased staffing levels. Secondly, improved efficiency levels will likely impact, perhaps significantly, the usage of overtime. 

Unlike many other local governments, the County’s IT Department possesses the skill to develop in-house applications.  Alone, this will result in significant cost avoidance with respect to software purchases. However, this also would bode well for shared service considerations.  Associated development and implementation costs for shared projects may benefit if spread across multiple jurisdictions.  The County is well situated to lead such an initiative.

CMA Finding – Exploration of Information Technology Opportunities.  The Department of Information Technology was found to be skilled, knowledgeable and experienced during the focused interviews.  The County should work closely with the Department in order to identify manual operations which may be automated.  By focusing on the implementation of technology, the operational workflow of the County can be greatly influenced, and costs can be further lowered.  Unlike many other local governments, the County’s IT Department possesses the skill to assist in this capacity.