Villages have two ways to launch dissolution process
CANTON — Villages in New York state that want to consider dissolving have two ways to initiate the process, according to state law.
Faced with higher expenses and enticed by state incentive aid, a few north county villages are considering dissolving into their respective larger towns.
Dissolution is available to all local government entities except towns, according to Article 17-A of the state’s general municipal law.
The process can begin either of two ways. The first requires a resolution be passed by the local elected board endorsing a proposed dissolution plan. A public referendum would follow to allow registered voters to decide whether to approve or reject dissolution.
The second way is petition driven. This method allows citizens to force their elected board to hold a public dissolution vote. It requires that a petition be submitted with at least 10 percent of the number of registered voters in the community, or 5,000, whichever is less. If the petition is determined to be valid, the elected board has 30 days to enact a resolution calling for a referendum. However, if the municipality has fewer than 500 registered voters, the petition requires signatures from at least 20 percent of the voters. In October, residents in the village of Hermon voted 95-15 to dissolve into the town of Hermon, effective Dec. 31. The move will bring an estimated $90,000 annually in state revenue to Hermon indefinitely./ppIn Hermon’s case, the process was initiated by the village board, which passed a resolution authorizing a dissolution study. The board then agreed to hold the vote. /ppIn neighboring Jefferson County, residents in the village of Herrings voted 19-9 in November to dissolve their village into the town of Wilna. Funds from the state were recently awarded to pay for the public referendum that allows residents to vote whether to support dissolving./ppIn Herrings, the process started in August, when a petition signed by 25 registered voters was submitted to the village board asking for a dissolution vote./ppCarrie M. Tuttle, an engineer with Development Authority of the North Country, said some villages are resistant to exploring dissolution, while others are more willing to study the idea. /pp“For some, there’s a concern about losing identity,” Ms. Tuttle said. “However, you don’t have to have a village to have a center of population.”/ppShe pointed to Star Lake and Cranberry Lake, which are both hamlets rather than incorporated villages. Both communities have their own strong identities, she said. /ppMs. Tuttle assisted Hermon with its dissolution study. The study showed that Hermon village residents will see their property tax bills decline by an estimated 52 percent after the village is dissolved./pp“Unless you do the study, you don’t know the tax impacts,” Ms. Tuttle said./ppRemoving a layer of government can create other efficiencies that reduce costs for taxpayers, she said. Those include elimination of insurance policies, municipal dues, software expenses and stipends paid to elected board members./pp“You reduce the overlap of administration and services,” Ms. Tuttle said./ppThe village of Edwards voted to dissolve in 2013 and as a result, the town of Edwards now receives about $102,000 in revenue each year from the state./ppAlthough loss of jobs has been raised as a concern, she noted that some of St. Lawrence County’s smallest villages don’t have any full-time employees. In Hermon, the village employs only a part-time clerk and a part-time public works staffer./ppVillages that agree to dissolve are supposed to receive annual payments from the state indefinitely through the state Department of State’s Government Reorganization and Citizen Empowerment Act./ppThe revenue amount is calculated by taking 15 percent of the combined village and town tax levies from the year prior to dissolution. State law requires that 70 percent of the incentive money be used to lower property taxes. Four years ago, Potsdam village residents voted 687-334 against dissolving, but the idea has resurfaced. Some community members have said they may circulate a petition that would force another referendum. The study that was conducted for the first vote would be updated before the vote./ppPotsdam Village Trustee Stephen J. Warr said he believes taxpayers should have a second chance to vote on a proposal that could help stem the trend of steep increases in village property taxes. /pp“I still think dissolution is the best idea,” he said Sunday. “The reality is the burden of taxes will continue to grow.”/ppMr. Warr said he plans to meet in April with some community members who are interested circulating a petition./ppMore than 70 percent of properties within the village limits are tax exempt, which means the remaining 28 percent of village property owners cover the full burden of village government costs, Mr. Warr said./ppBy the numbers:/ppSt. Lawrence County’s 12 villages, listed smallest to largest by population, according to the 2010 U.S. Census:/ppHammondspan title=”charref:8″/span 280 Richvillespan title=”charref:8″/span 323 Rensselaer Fallsspan title=”charref:8″/span 332 Morristownspan title=”charref:8″/span395 Hermonspan title=”charref:8″/span 422 Heuveltonspan title=”charref:8″/span 714 Waddingtonspan title=”charref:8″/span927 Norwoodspan title=”charref:8″/span 1,657 Gouverneurspan title=”charref:8″/span 3,949 Cantonspan title=”charref:8″/span 6,314 Potsdamspan title=”charref:8″/span 9,428 Massenaspan title=”charref:8″/span 10,936/p
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Villages have two ways to launch dissolution process