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Panel discusses the cost of dissolution of Village of Forestville

SILVER CREEK – The task force looking at dissolving the Village of Forestville got a sense of what to expect Thursday night from an expert in municipal consolidations.

“No one is more experienced in New York State on dissolutions,” said Paul Bishop, a representative of the Center for Governmental Research, a nonprofit corporation that helps government leaders look at their operations.

He said his organization conducted 40 municipal studies and about five of the local governments ended up dissolving.

“Every village and town is a different story,” he said.

He estimated that about $115,000 may be returned to taxpayers through the Citizens Empowerment Tax Credit if the village is dissolved.

“We are very often contacted by a village that does a board-initiated study,” he said. “We look at each level of service and identify options.”

Property taxes before and after dissolution is a major consideration. “For village residents, it is most often a savings; for town residents, it is often a small increase,” he said.

The study can take four to six months. A website with reports that are approved by the committee are posted during the process of research and planning, he added.

The cost for a study is about $50,000, according to Bishop. “Today, I believe, the community has to put up about one-half of the cost,” he said.

He also said that if a petition were received to promote dissolution, there is a 90-day limit before a vote must be held. Twenty percent of registered voters must sign the petition for it to be recognized. Forestville has about 500 eligible voters.

Bishop said a brief survey can be completed in about a month outlining basic costs involved in eliminating a village. The cost for the simple survey is $15,000.

Chautauqua County Legislator George Borrello, R-Silver Creek, who is chairman of the dissolution committee, told Forestville Mayor Kevin Johnson and others on the committee that the village needs to plan for future costs, something that was not done in the past.“Planning was foreign to them,” said Johnson. He said there were no tax increases for several years in Forestville.

Silver Creek Mayor Nick Piccolo also attended the meeting to gather information on possibilities for his village. He said that there would be a financial burden to senior citizens who may get larger tax bills. He said he also believes that future state leaders will demand that village officials look at dissolving.

Angela Bittenger, a Forestville resident who is a member of the committee, said some residents are concerned about water services, snowplowing on sidewalks and brush pick-up.

She said fire department members feel they would be better off if the village were dissolved.

“This village has so many problems, I think this is something that has to be looked at,” Bittenger said. “We need less government and less hands in the pot.”

Gary Belote, a Forestville trustee, said it made sense to him to have the county consider taking over smaller municipalities.

Borrello said that he agrees that paying taxes is difficult for people in this area. “It is about a small group of people having to support a lot of projects,” he added.

Richard Zink of the Southern Tier West Regional Planning and Development Board said his organization has access to some grants and may be able to help with the local matching funds needed for a study. He said about $5,000 may be available.

He suggested that Hanover and Forestville residents may want to reach out to people in Randolph, where two villages, Randolph and East Randolph, were dissolved. Borrello said that with the help of Southern Tier West, the base survey may be able to be completed at no cost to Forestville.

“I want to see people make an informed decision, not an emotional decision,” he said.

The group will continue to meet on a monthly basis.