None at public hearing support dissolving Village of Medina - The Buffalo News

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None at public hearing support dissolving Village of Medina

MEDINA – Not a single speaker at a public forum here Tuesday was in favor of dissolving the village, as Mayor Andrew Meier and a study committee want.

A crowd of about 200 in the Wise Middle School gym was not impressed with promises that residents of the dissolved village would see substantial tax savings, especially since taxes in the towns of Ridgeway and Shelby would go up.

Every village resident also pays town taxes, since the Ridgeway-Shelby border runs down the middle of the village.

Although Meier said the tax savings projections include the town tax hikes that would result, his assurances didn’t seem to reassure anyone at the hearing.

Marcia Tuohey, former mayor and Orleans County Legislature chairwoman, said any savings would be short-lived.

“Probably in a year you’d be paying more than you are now,” she said.

Don Colquhoun, chairman of the dissolution committee, said the panel intends to submit a plan to the Village Board by the end of May. It will be up to the board to decide whether to hold a referendum on it.

Meier said he wants the dissolution plan to be the first step in consolidation, to be followed by a merger of Ridgeway and Shelby. He said he started a dissolution process after a 2011 effort at a three-way consolidation fell through.

“We can’t wait for others to act to address our concerns and challenges in the village,” Meier said.

State law says only village voters, not those who live in the towns outside the village boundaries, have a say in a dissolution.

“This is taxation without representation to me,” said Julie Stopa-Oley, of Ridgeway.

Several speakers urged Meier to go back to the towns and try to work something out.

Figures from the Center for Government Research, the Rochester consulting firm that drew up the plan, estimated that dissolution would save 2 percent of the three combined budgets and 4 percent of the village budget alone.

“The mayor is calling for a bold step of doing away with 182 years of tradition to save a few bucks,” said Todd Bensley, a village resident on the Ridgeway side. “It’ll be on the backs of our neighbors in Ridgeway and Shelby. … I don’t think it’s right to put my burden on them.”

Bensley called for making Medina into a city so it could collect more state aid. Also, Medina residents would no longer have to pay town taxes.

The estimates show that property tax rates in the village would fall 27 percent in the Ridgeway portion and 34 percent on the Shelby side, but outside village borders, Ridgeway tax rates would rise 46 percent and Shelby tax rates 10 percent.

That assumes the towns absorb the village’s employees. The towns, however, are not required to do so.

“I don’t see the benefit to village taxpayers if we are losing services and the village is losing positions,” said Marnie Kozielski, a village and Ridgeway resident.

Several services, such as fire protection and water and sewer, would be governed by special taxing districts or local development corporations.

Ridgeway resident Neil Samborski said, “I can guarantee you that if my taxes go up 46 percent, I’m leaving the Town of Ridgeway and Orleans County. I have a neighbor here who’s a farmer. If his taxes go up 46 percent, he’s out of business.”


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