East Aurora village officials signed off on a police services contract Monday night that paves the way for what many say is a more equitable split of operational costs between the town and village.
The fate of the proposal now rests with the Aurora Town Board, which is expected to vote on it next Monday night. Town officials have publicly praised the five-year pact for the village-owned police force, which also patrols the town outside the village limits.
"We look upon them as equal brethren in this agreement," Mayor Allan Kasprzak said.
The proposal has been a long time in coming, since the debate over the cost of police services for village and town residents has been a controversial one for many years, with talk at one point of the town eventually taking over the Police Department or the Erie County Sheriff's Office handling some of the responsibilities.
Under the pact, the town would pay 49 percent of police costs, or $1.4 million annually, while the village would cover the remaining 51 percent, or $1.46 million. The village would retain ownership of the department.
The town has been under a five-year escalating cost contract with the village originally established in 2008 and set to expire in May 2013. Without the new proposal, the town would have been facing nearly 60 percent of police costs, or about $1.66 million, in the final year of the existing contract.
The Village Board approved the plan, which runs through May 31, 2017, and contains a one-year extension clause. The board vote was not unanimous at 5 to 2, with Trustees Libby Weberg and Kevin Biggs casting "no" votes.
Weberg reiterated her concerns that she felt village residents were being asked to subsidize more of the police costs than they should. She continued to back a push a few years ago that would have distributed police costs more equitably by spreading it out over assessed valuation.
"I just continue to feel the contract puts too much burden on the village taxpayers," she said.
In addition, a major announcement is forthcoming for Thursday morning at Knox Farm State Park about the preservation of the park. Little information has been provided publicly, but village officials Monday mentioned the upcoming event.
The Buffalo News in January detailed the deteriorating conditions of structures at the state park. A copy of the announcement for Thursday notes that the Preservation League of New York State will make an important announcement regarding the park's preservation.