The Association of Towns of the State of New York was established in 1933 to help towns obtain greater economy and efficiency. The Association serves town governments by providing training programs, research and information services, technical assistance, legal services, insurance programs and a variety of publications to member towns. It represents town governments by providing advocacy in Albany, monitoring legislation and regulatory action, lobbying and presenting initiatives solely on behalf of towns. The Association gains all of its revenue from dues and activities and receives no State or federal assistance.
The membership of the Association consists solely of towns, and therefore all town officials are included. From inception, membership support has been strong and has grown to over 97% of all towns. The Association staffing has evolved over the years to meet member needs and now includes attorneys and professionals with experience in town government, the State Legislature and State agencies. The Association's library and computer systems house vast amounts of information on State and local governments, including fiscal and census data, and membership information for more than 20,000 town officials!
Diversity and Similarity
A town in New York State is a general purpose, home rule municipal corporation. New York State's 932 towns cover the entire area of the State (outside of cities) and constitute the most numerous and diverse class of local government. The 2000 census of town populations ranged from 38 in Red House to approximately 756,000 in Hempstead and 74 towns have populations greater than 20,000. Towns vary widely in their physical characteristics, their constituencies, and the services they provide. At the same time, they are all similar in their basic governmental structures and responsibilities, and generally are subject to the same State laws and mandates.
The Association is dedicated to serving all members and utilizes both the benefits of the diversity and the advantages of the similarity in developing services, programs, legislation and information systems for its membership.
A Bright Future
In 1960, only 36% of the State population lived in towns; the 2000 census showed that this has grown to 46%! More than 8.7 million people now live in towns, not including seasonal and second home owners who drive the "actual" populations far beyond these numbers. Approximately one-half of New York's citizens now rely on towns for the provision of primary public services!
Undoubtedly, the major force that is shaping the future is the shifting of the State's population from areas served by cities to areas served by towns. As town populations grow, so does the demand for town services. In fact, many towns have grown to the point of "urbanization", which not only creates a larger service base, but actually changes the nature and level of the service. In addition to the stress of population growth, town government is also continually being affected by changes resulting from economic and demographic forces at the local level; and mandates from the legislative, executive and judicial branches of the State and federal governments.
The pressure on towns to provide services is increasing as highway systems are improving and commuter patterns are expanding. Economic bases are developing that are less dependent on close proximity to urban population centers. No area in the state is exempt from change, either through normal evolution or sudden impact.
The Association of Towns is working with members who are striving for innovation, economy and effectiveness in meeting these challenges. As their needs grow and change, so does the Association!