Voters of the Village of Depew will soon have a chance to decide whether they want to break with the past and dissolve the village government, likely reducing taxes for them by eliminating duplicated services.
Paying for the many, often redundant layers of government is one reason taxes in New York are so high.
The campaign to dissolve the village government gathered 1,518 valid signatures from residents. The village board now has about 30 days to approve a resolution calling for a referendum, which would then be held within 60 to 90 days.
Dissolution advocates contend the village has become too expensive to operate as a separate entity. Two-thirds of Depew lies in Cheektowaga, with the remaining third in Lancaster. Those towns would absorb their parts of Depew.
For some longtime residents of the 124-year-old, 5-square-mile village of 15,000 residents, change is not only difficult but impossible to imagine.
Public services tend to be one of the prominent issues in village dissolution. Village police and highway departments, for example, provide a high level of service, which comes at a high price. Also, village employees would lose their jobs, unless absorbed by the towns. Buffalo civic leader Kevin Gaughan has done extensive study of the cost of towns and villages. His work can be found at the website thecost.org.
Over the last decade many villages have studied or voted on dissolution, and most have chosen not to dissolve, according to Paul A. Bishop of the Center for Governmental Research, a nonprofit corporation that helps government leaders look at their operations. There is a substantial state incentive for dissolving, consisting of an increase in aid to the surviving municipality. It can make a compelling case for residents to vote in favor.
But dissolution is never a sure thing.
The Orleans County Village of Medina voted not to dissolve. Last November, Forestville voted 137-97 to dissolve the village. Now the village must develop a plan to dissolve and there is a possibility for residents to petition to stop the plan. Residents will vote on Election Day on whether to follow through.
The Vote-Depew organization, which wants to keep the village intact, will have its turn during a question-and-answer forum the group is sponsoring at 7 p.m. Thursday in Depew High School.
Residents should listen carefully to the arguments and consider the benefits of giving up village government. If the savings are there, they should strike a blow for simpler government.