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Effects of proposed Village of Forestville dissolution are discussed

FORESTVILLE – Savings and benefits of dissolving the village’s government were discussed during a meeting Tuesday in the auditorium of Forestville High School.

Tax rates for people who live in the village would decrease by about $7.40 per $1,000 of assessed value if the village operations are taken over by the Town of Hanover. Services would remain about the same and would be taken over by the town. Residents will vote Nov. 3 on whether to dissolve the village.

Owners of a home assessed at $93,000 would save about $645 per year. The figure was provided based on the median assessed value of homes in the village. The current village rate is $10.63 per $1,000. Property owners also pay Hanover taxes.

About 75 people attended the meeting, which featured Paul A. Bishop of the Center for Governmental Research, whose report is available on the organization’s website, cgr.org. A summary of the report will be distributed throughout the village.

Some residents were emotional about losing the village, while others supported eliminating it.

“I have come to the conclusion that we are a sinking ship,” said Angela Bittinger, a Forestville resident who supports dissolution. “I understand that many of you have heartstrings that are being pulled. Folks, I hope you do what is right.”

Village residents pay about $41.10 per $1,000 in combined, county, town, village and school taxes. The school and county taxes would not change if the village is dissolved.

In 2014, residents absorbed a large increase in village tax bills because of debts connected to the demolition of a building and loan payments that were called in by a local bank.

New York State would come through with a $185,000 grant if the village decides to dissolve.

The Town of Hanover is able to provide all the services now provided to the village, according to the report. The sole loss would be access to a local level of government, the report added. The town has about 7,000 residents, and the village, which was incorporated in 1848, about 700.

The Forestville Government Efficiency Task Force, whose chairman is Chautauqua County Legislator George Borrello, R-Hanover, was formed after the county lent $150,000 to the village to offset a large deficit.

Trustee Gary Belote said Forestville residents stand to “lose their voice” under dissolution.

County Executive Vincent W. Horrigan said, “In all of our communities, we have many challenges. Think about where you want to be three to five years down the road.”

Among effects on services would be elimination of a village clerk. Also, there would be a savings of about $7,500 from not having a Village Board and mayor. The town would be required to expand its services for zoning and building code enforcement at a cost of about $6,300. An additional $2,300 would be needed for animal-control services in the village.

If voters choose dissolution, the village Fire Department would need to become independent.

Most of the Center for Government Research report was funded by a state grant and the Southern Tier West Regional Development and Planning Board. Bishop said that there were interviews with village and town staff members and reviews of budgets, assets and other documents.

If the dissolution proposal is defeated, the issue could not be put on the ballot for four years.