Many of you are worried about the lack of a plan to vote on, or what a post dissolution village would look like. Here are some common questions and answers about unification. If unification is approved, the final answer to some of these will be determined in a plan created by the Village & Town when unification is approved. Via mandated public hearings, we will all have input into the process.
- What will happen to property assessments?
Last year we had a round of increases even though most of us thought values were falling. Click here for a discussion with the assessor on what could happen, no big changes are expected.
- What will happen to the Fire Department?
We’ve heard from Mayor Kleisle and Supervisor Manktelow that a fire district will be created encompassing the entire town.
- What will happen to the Police Department?
Per the 10/29/2012 meeting and law, if the vote passes to dissolve, the village and town will create a dissolution plan that can advocate creation of a townwide police force. Supervisor Manktelow publically affirmed the Town’s commitment to providing the services requested by the village and to work with the village on the creation of a dissolution plan that’s feasible. Seneca Falls was able to renegotiate with their police, they’ve now expanded police coverage with more officers and their call volume has almost tripled. Per the SF delegation on 11/1, they were able to provide this with decreased budget due to increased efficiencies in scheduling and a $2/hr pay cut.
- What about snow plowing and road maintenance?
The town would be required to provide for DPW functions. According to NYCOM, village residents have been subsidizing the town services without fair return, plus have to pay again for village services. We learned from NYCOM and CGR that this will result in savings for village residents of approximately the difference between your village taxes and your town taxes.
- How do our current taxes compare to others?
LYONS ranks #1 in Fingerlakes Region for highest taxes! The Democrat & Chronicle has done a couple of stories on New York taxes. Taxes soar while income declines– Wayne & Monroe counties paid the most in the entire country when compared to property value.
- If the Village of Lyons NY dissolves, what happens to my tax exemptions? The Village reports all exemptions will be lost, is this accurate?
Per our research, the discussion on this has not been wholly truthful. If the village dissolves, then all taxes it collects and all exemptions it grants also cease. However, per our research, Wayne County and the Town of Lyons grant the same exemptions as the Village of Lyons. The village tax will disappear along with the exemptions, and the Town will levy a townwide tax and continue to offer the town tax exemptions. Thus, the exemptions for STAR, Elderly, and Veterans, would continue to exist under the Town taxing structure.
- What has happened in other Villages/Towns that unified?
We learned that in Seneca Falls, the village tax rate dropped from over $16 per $1,000 to $5 per $1,000 assessed, and without the dump there still would have been a $7 per $1,000 decrease! Town residents went from paying $0 in taxes for 8 years to between $2.58 per $1000 assessed value according to the figures provided 11/1 by SF delegation. SF reports they were able to accomplish this because of the removal of a layer of government and the new flexibility to renegotiate contracts, review how services were provided, and leverage more out of the resources at hand.
- Wouldn’t we just create more special districts that will cost us more at no real savings?
NYCOM reports on average 4.4 special districts are created. In Lyons, we forsee 5 special districts being formed to continue the services required, but those districts should not come at additional cost. The 4 districts would count the current special water&sewer district, street lighting, Fire District, side walk district, and a special district to payoff village debt. As these costs are already set and maintained by the village, there should be no reason for additional cost for the town to take them over. Once the village debt has been paid off, there would be additional savings to village residents.
- There is no plan to vote on! How can we vote yes without a plan, that’s irresponsible!
We agree, the village did not take the initiative to create a full dissolution plan. They did team up with the schools, town, and village to conduct a comprehensive 57 page consolidation, tax savings, and improved efficiency plan that was released in 2011. The plan reviews all departments except public safety, and reports potential savings of $4-5 per $1,000 of assessment. For a $50,000 assessed home that would be $200-$250 per year. In SF, we learned that having a plan beforehand helped, but was not critical because“there was a lot of ambiguity in the plan and we had to make changes, plus there were many unforseen adjustments that had to be made when we learned the depth of the water and sewer problems.”
- Why can’t we as citizens just go to the meetings, voice our opinions, and force them to correct the identified concerns of the citizens?As NYCOM lead attorney Wade Beltrano informed us at the public meeting, NYS law doesn’t guarantee citizens the right to speak at public meetings. We only have the right to attend the meetings and observe the process. (Remember the village informational meeting 10/29/2012? Such is an example of restricted access to speak freely to the boards, and has been routine behavior at our village meetings). NYCOM reminded the public and the boards that they can create rules which allow the public to voice thier opinions, but the boards do not have to respond. The only methods the public have to directly address thier boards are during specially called Public Hearings intended for public involvement. We agree with NYCOM that the democratic process should allow the public to interact with local government, but the fact remains that village government is NOT the most transparent form of government as it currently functions. For an example: In 2011 the village encouraged citizen commentary and involvement prior to water and sewer rate increases. The public responded and engaged. How did the village handle the engaged electorate? They called an emergency short notice “special meeting” and passed the increase out of the public view, effectively eliminating public right to be present and educated about the process.
- IF we dissolve the village, but water and sewer rates continue to rise, aren’t we just defeating the purpose for dissolution?Great question posted recently on our facebook page. Please note the results of the NYS Comptroller Audit (lyons water and sewer study ), and the village record keeping of thier multi million dollar water/sewer system. They had no clue about the state of their system as of 9/28/2012 and turned in some created handwritten notes as result of FOIL. Our position is that the village has grossly mismanaged in every area. We cannot guarantee the town will be any better, but at least one layer of gross mismanagement will have been removed and we can hold the town to task. As it stands now we have to deal with two governments, and no matter what happens the water and sewer systems are still on the brink of disaster according to the village’s records and the history/age/leaks frequency. Check out: NYS Comptroller -Lyons water and sewer study, DOC204 Handwritten notes regarding street and main replacements, DOC206 water main and valve replacements. Check out the costs to village residents: Lyons water users actual cost of water loss since 20070001.
- Open Meetings Law and meeting posting requirements guarantee that citizens can at least attend meetings and observe the process of an open transparent government. Why do you challenge then that our local governments are NOT transparent, responsive, and responsible?This was a great question posed in an email recently. Our village government has choosen to frequently use special loopholes in the OML that allow them to call “special” or “emergency” meetings on extremely short notice and usually at inopportune times for the purpose of avoiding public scrutiny. The methods employed to call special meetings involve the mayor notifying her board and the reason why. The village clerk then sends an email to local papers, but asks them not to publish, only receive notification as required in the news. An update is quietly added to the website, which until 2009 was not done until a complaint to the committee on open government. The media that’s notified is usually already to print, or a weekly media that would print long after the meeting was held. Use of these special meetings were held frequently from 2008 through 2011. In 2012, 3 special meetings have been held so far, but were used in a different way than usual. Please review further how NYS Public Bodies can avoid citizen involvement and scrutiny via legal loopholes.
- On July 25th, the former Mayor and former Administrator of Seneca Falls presented to our village board and reported on the record that Sewer Rates went up 268% and Town taxes went up 500%. Is this true? Why did this happen and will it happen here? Our research of this continues, but our current understanding based upon extensive review shows that the infrastructure of Seneca Falls water and sewer districts was exceptionally decrepit, very simliar to the issues currently faced in the Village of Lyons. Late in 2011 the Town raised the water & sewer rates for Seneca Falls noting that they hadn’t been raised in 10 years. Further, it appears that the Town of Seneca Falls has had to start a massive emergency repair and replacement campaign to bring the Sewer system into NYS compliance as they were cited by the state upon taking over. Further, a number of mains, pump stations, Air conditioning units, and even vehicles failed and needed replacement in 2012. Citing the reported massive spike in sewer rates, without taking ownership of the lack of maintanence of repairs is not fair nor ethical. Further, classifying the spike in Town tax rates from $0 for 8 years to approximately $5 per $1,000 (TSF 2012 budget pages 1 to 21) without explaining the reasons for the massive tax and equity disparities is also not fair nor ethical. Research for yourself the major issues left by the village that the Town of Seneca Falls has had to tackle in 2012! Next years rates are predicted to stay the exact same. Late 2011 and all 2012 Seneca Falls board minutes – Water & Sewer
- The village held an informational meeting with NYCOM, and had planned to invite Lead MRB Representative and Former NYCOM President Diana Smith to be unbiased representatives for their next meeting. Does OneLyons have any concerns about conflicts of interest or bias? Who is NYCOM?Who is MRB? Does former Mayor of Seneca Falls Diana Smith or Administator Connie Soward have any potential financial conflicts of interest in this discussion on dissolution versus consolidation?