Village Elections/Local mayors express concerns over governor’s consolidation proposal

By on March 20, 2017
Village of Spencerport sign at the corner of South Union Street and Nichols Street. Village elections will be held Tuesday, March 21. K. Gabalski photo

Village of Spencerport sign at the corner of South Union Street and Nichols Street. Village elections will be held Tuesday, March 21. K. Gabalski photo

Voters in two local villages will head to the polls Tuesday, March 21 for village elections. Both the Village of Spencerport and the Village of Churchville have elections; however, candidates are running unopposed.

In Spencerport, Mayor Gary Penders is running for another four year term and Trustees Charles Hopson and Raymond Kuntz are running unopposed for four year terms. Polls will be open from 12 noon until 9 p.m. at the Spencerport Firehouse, Station #1, 175 Lyell Avenue.

In Churchville, incumbent trustees Scott Cullen and John Hartman are running unopposed for four year terms on the Village Board.  Voting will be at the Churchville Village Hall, 23 East Buffalo Street from 12 noon until 9 p.m.

Governor’s budget proposal causing concern for local mayors

Local village mayors are expressing worry over a proposal in the governor’s executive budget mandating every county in New York State to prepare a consolidation plan, including new shared services, in an effort to lower property taxes.

“In simple terms, this plan could result in dissolution of the Village of Hilton, and placed for a vote on the ballot for the November 2017 election,” Hilton Mayor Joseph Lee writes in a message posted on the village’s website.

“The governor blames local municipalities for the high taxes.  What the governor has failed to realize is the Monroe County municipalities have been sharing services for decades.  We are the government closest to the people, the most responsive and responsible for our residents’ needs.”

Spencerport Mayor Gary Penders has posted a similar message on the Village of Spencerport’s website. Mayor Penders writes, “The governor further announced that if the Legislature passes the 2017 State Budget without the ‘Consolidation Plan,’ the governor will hold up $715 million in AIM (aid and incentives to municipalities) funding to cities, towns and villages starting April 1, 2017.”

“What the governor is actually requesting is a consolidation plan developed by Monroe County that could ultimately result in the dissolution of the Village of Spencerport, other villages and fire and special use districts to be on the ballot for the November 2017 General Election,” Mayor Penders writes.

During the March 6 meeting of the Brockport Village Board, Mayor Margay Blackman discussed a letter she has written in response to the governor’s demand for consolidation. The letter was sent to Senator Robert Ortt, Assemblyman Stephen Hawley, local mayors, and NYCOM director Peter Baynes.

“Governor Cuomo’s latest proposal for consolidation is a top down, heavy handed (unfunded) mandate that yet again fails to recognize the real reasons for high local property taxes – unfunded mandates, rising health care costs, stagnant AIM funding for eight years, and in the case of Brockport and a number of other villages, the sheer amount of tax exempt property within the village (more than 65 percent in Brockport),” Mayor Blackman writes. “The governor’s proposal continues to ignore the considerable, continuing efforts villages have made to increase efficiency, cut costs and share services with other villages and towns.”

All three mayors point to numerous examples of shared services already in place in their villages, including Brockport DPW inter-municipal agreements with all towns and villages in Monroe County to share equipment when needed; the sharing of a sewer camera between the Brockport DPW, Village of Hilton and Village of Spencerport; the sharing of equipment between the Brockport DPW and the Brockport Central School District (BCSD also uses the village’s salt storage facility); the sharing of a salt facility and fuel station between the Village of Hilton, Town of Parma, Hilton-Parma Fire District and Hilton Central School District; the decommissioning of the Village of Spencerport sewage treatment plant and construction of a pump station owned and operated by Monroe County since 2008; an inter-municipal agreement between the Village of Spencerport and the Town of Ogden for assessor and building inspection services and Monroe County for sharing of equipment and labor for county road work.

Churchville Mayor Nancy Steedman agrees with her fellow mayors and notes that additionally, the Municipal Electric Utilities Association (of which she is currently president) put their mutual aid plan in place just in time for municipals to offer their linemen and equipment to help with restoring power following the devastating March 8 windstorm.

Mayor Steedman shared an email Spencerport Mayor Gary Penders wrote to local mayors March 10 regarding the efforts of village municipal electrics to help with power restoration, “Starting tonight, RG&E customers will see linemen and trucks from our Villages of New York out there helping out getting them back up … really proud of the MEUA and our villages,” Mayor Penders wrote.

The mayors say they continually look for ways to save money and increase efficiencies to keep the local tax rate down, and a recent report from the State Comptroller commends villages for their budgeting efforts.

In a March 8 news release from the Office of the New York State Comptroller, Thomas DiNapoli said village fiscal distress continues to decline around the state.

In 2016, nine villages were experiencing some level of fiscal stress compared with 18 the year before.

“This is the second year fiscal stress has declined in villages and the first year without a village in significant fiscal stress,” DiNapoli said.  “I commend local  officials for this improvement and believe that sensible budgeting and closely following their multi-year financial plans can help extend financial stability into the future.”

No local villages are listed as experiencing fiscal stress as of the end of 2016.

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