A state review of Dukes County has found the current county structure renders it unable to deliver “strong and cohesive management” and recommends Island leaders look to a new model, if they are serious about providing better regional services.

Instead of the current structure, it recommends a council of governments approach, under which the towns would wield much more direct influence.

The review by the Department of Revenue, prepared at the request of the Dukes County charter study commission, sees plenty of scope for the centralization of a variety of services under one body, but questions whether the current county setup, for a variety of structural and historic reasons, is a viable way to go about it.

The “soundness” of the regional approach, it says, is evident in a number of collaborative programs, districts and independent authorities already operating on the Vineyard, including the regional transit and housing authorities, Martha’s Vineyard Commission, land bank, ambulance service and refuse districts.

“Looking ahead, it may seem reasonable to envision the county, with thoughtful planning, offering additional services under similar management and cost-sharing arrangements,” says the draft report.

“However,” it continues, “there are obstacles. The current organizational structure is one.

“The lack of universal confidence in county government is another, as is disagreement on the role of county government on the Island. At the core, overshadowing these management issues is the ongoing debate about the role of county government on Martha’s Vineyard. Those who view it as the county’s role to develop programs for towns, on its own initiative, are at odds with others who believe the county should create services only at the request of the member towns.

“While operating in this environment, we do not believe the county government is at all well positioned to fulfill a meaningful role in the regionalization of municipal services.”

And while the report does not directly suggest county government is an anachronism, it does note the County of Dukes County, incorporated in 1695, is one of only six counties still extant in Massachusetts.

The report goes on to offer suggestions on how the operation of the county might be improved, but cautions that even if they were all taken on board, there was “no guarantee” of continued smooth operation.

“Therefore, we suggest that serious consideration be given to an alternative form of regional government. In our first recommendation, we introduce the concept of a council of governments structure.”

The report does not stipulate how such an arrangement should work. But there are several possible models. Under one, the selectmen of the towns, or their appointed representatives, would become the county commissioners. Alternatively, the county would disappear entirely, replaced by a system under which the towns would formulate various intermunicipal agreements between themselves to provide services.

The county commissioners and the county advisory board have established a committee to consider what shape the changes might take.

Tristan Israel, who is both a county commissioner and Tisbury selectman, said there was a clear need for reform.

“It’s not a scandal or anything,” he said. “Over the past few years, I think the county has operated very responsibly.

“But the structure is flawed and it has no money. I think we need to look at the council of governments model.”

He said he favors a system under which selectmen from the various Island towns would become the county commissioners.

“That would bring the potential to put some money behind good ideas for regional approaches to issues,” Mr. Israel said.

He noted, as the DOR report does, that the county has seen its areas of responsibility whittled away over the years. From the start of January this year, the biggest part of its responsibility, the sheriff’s department, was taken over by the state. A few years ago, the airport passed from direct county control and now is under the oversight of an appointed, largely autonomous commission.

As a result of the sheriff’s department passing to state control, the report notes “over half of total county government operations in Dukes County, including 42 employees, now fall under the jurisdiction of the state.

“Based on our conversations with officials, these circumstances have prompted a new wave of questions regarding the county’s ongoing purpose and value.”

Now, the report notes, the county manager “only has direct administrative oversight over several programs including the health care access program (VHCAP), integrated pest management program, veterans agent and animal shelter.”

And the operation of those programs is fraught with difficulty, it notes.

The pest management and health care access programs are financed by individual communities through a warrant article at spring town meeting, without any “formal agreement or certainty that they will be funded in the future.

“This arrangement poses a particularly difficult budget issue for the county, because they rely on the collective funding from each town to support ongoing service levels,” it says.

County finances are generally messy, the report says.

“While county officials take necessary action to estimate revenues, distribute guidelines and deliberate on spending, no clear calendar or timeline exists to keep officials on task,” the report says.

“As a result, the budget process often runs past the beginning of the fiscal year, requiring interim 1/12th budgets to continue operations. Supplemental budgets are also routinely used to adjust revenues and expenditures, a practice we discourage.”

The report is, however, complimentary of the county treasurer Noreen Mavro Flanders, “for managing effectively under the circumstances.”