As Wilson villagers rebel against rising taxes, leaders should carefully consider dissolution - The Buffalo News

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As Wilson villagers rebel against rising taxes, leaders should carefully consider dissolution

Residents in yet another village are questioning the feasibility of continuing a separate entity alongside a town. Recently, it was the Village of Medina with what turned out to be a fairly lonely quest by its mayor to explore the possibility of a merger. Now it’s the Village of Wilson’s turn.

A small group of village residents have had it when it comes to rising taxes. They walked around a petition and collected signatures to force the Village Board to hold a referendum asking voters to consider dissolving the village.

Under state guidelines, the petition must be signed by a minimum of 10 percent of the registered voters in the village, a task successfully accomplished. Out of approximately 1,300 residents, there were 842 registered voters in its March elections. That’s the size we’re talking.

The Village Board now has 30 days to enact a resolution that will set the date for the referendum on the proposed dissolution. The vote must be held between 60 and 90 days after the Village Board enacts the resolution. The board has a regularly scheduled meeting June 19 in Village Hall and is expected to set a referendum date at that time.

State guidelines set specific rules when it comes to the serious business of dissolution. If approved, the board must hold public hearings and possibly amend and adopt the final plan. If the resolution fails, no one is permitted to pursue dissolving the village again for four years.

There is usually a strong advocacy for keeping the status quo. Wade Beltramo, attorney for the New York Conference of Mayors, considered why people look at dissolving villages or towns. Later, in answering his own question, he pointed to economic downturns as the culprit.

That seems likely. When times get tough and households have pinched just about every penny, they start looking for signs of waste – and duplicative and costly municipalities fit the bill. Such discussions can be difficult for those whose jobs would dissolve along with the municipality.

Mayor Bernard “Bernie” Leiker should get credit for recognizing his constituents’ pain when he said, “I feel very strongly that the citizens have spoken, and it’s our responsibility as a board to look at this carefully.”

The mayor said officials from the state Department of State have pledged 50 percent of the cost of an independent study but that others have indicated that the state might pick up the entire cost. If that’s the case and if the state would pay up to $100,000 to implement the dissolution plan, it makes pursuing this common sense.

Not to mention the people have spoken, as the mayor said. People like Mary Busch, one of five residents who went door to door with the petition. She and her husband, Gene, are retired and told a News reporter the simple truth: They can’t keep paying higher taxes, not on fixed incomes.

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