Village Consolidation Blog
When the Erie Canal was starting to be built in 1818 it would eventually leave an indelible mark on the geography of New York State by the time is was done. It would transform the landscape forever, and also set into motion an exploration of the west that had never happened before.
By it's completion in October of 1825 it had also left it's mark on New York State citizens & politics. Almost overnight it seemed a transformation happened. What used to be old dirt trails became roads, hamlets sprung up and soon Towns & Villages were being laid out across the state. All of this defining a route for the canal and also where people would settle into along it. Eventually the most prosperous of these early municipalities turned into cities that we all know by name today; Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Rome, Albany.
Life moved forward, and eventually all of canal communities learned to co-exist along the waterway. They thrived on canal commerce and collected taxes from their residents who lived in those counties, cities, towns & villages. Soon school systems were built, more taxes to pay for a growing Society and State.
Eventually the canal and it's commerce opportunities were passed by. It too became a relic of continued progress where trains, planes & automobiles becoming the preferred transportation of both commercial goods and people.
But the Erie Canal had already left it's mark forever on the State Of New York, economically & topographically
What the Erie Canal also left behind were hundreds of Towns & Villages spread across its 500+ miles of waterway.
Each of those Towns & Villages still trying to exist on Taxpayer dollars and providing water and waste treatment to their residents, but with a declining population. Those residents in the smallest type municipality, Villages, were strapped with the highest tax burden, having to pay for their County/Town Tax, their School Taxes and also for the cost of the local Village Government. It was for no other reason than the location of their property in the Town, which seemed a bit unfair, especially in comparison to what the rest of the Town Taxpayers were asked to pay,
At some point it became apparent to NY State Legislators, that too much government in their state was not only too costly overall but also could be unfair to those residents who were targeted for extra tax simply because their home was inside Village Limits.
So in 2010 the State of New York made an attempt to fix this issue with Unfair Taxation for Erie Canal Villages...
The Legislator's answer to the plight of Erie Canal Villagers was simple. It's called the NY Government Reorganization and Citizen Empowerment Act (GRACE) a new law to help residents out when excessive government is making it too costly for NY Residents.
Why this Government Reorganization Act is needed:
Many Erie Canal neighbors have homes that lie in Town AND an Incorporated New York State Village, which earns Erie Canal Village residents, a "double" tax payment. One to the Village and the other to the Town/County. And of course there is the School tax as well. The result is that most folks who live in any NYS Village are paying way above the average for Town Municipal services compared to similar residents in their respective Towns.
But the Village Leadership has no incentive to dissolve. It would mean jobs, and it would mean that the Town would start making decisions for this small section of the Town. The 2010 Govt. Act gave the Citizens of these Villages the right to call for a Village Dissolution Vote, and outlines how that should happen.
Here's why the Government Reduction Act targeted Village Dissolution:
The problem is that any Village Municipalities, on the canal or not, will ALWAYS be disadvantaged in serving the public efficiently, when compared to the Townships those villages are part of. This is especially true for villages along the Erie Canal, some of the oldest in New York State. It's a result of "redundant" government & overhead needed to manage an area of land.
The graph below shows 14 Towns & Villages along the Erie Canal compared by Annual Budgets. Physical size of the Towns & Villages and the number of residents that live in these areas are listed by name, with area highlighted in red and associated populations as a separate graph bar.
As the graph shows there are areas of concern comparing Town to Town data. Seems a few towns are not running very effectively in how the residents are served, and what value residents are receiving for Tax Dollars they spend. In fact there are two Erie Canal Towns who need to explain why their costs are so much higher than the others with similar demographics.
Village Officials should take notice that this type of information will not sit well with the small groups of residents they serve. Can anyone working in Leadership of a Village explain the benefits of staying incorporated as a Village given how lopsided this data looks for them?
Look at the Graph Above Again PLEASE!
Also what is shown, in the right side bar, is how disproportional the Villages Annual Operating Costs are in comparison to the Towns they are located within. Combined Village budgets exceed those of the towns even though those Villages have far less area to manage, about 5%, and only a third of the total population that Towns have to care for. The Villages together, operate at a 25% higher costs for half as many residents with only 5% - 7% of the total area to cover. Something is very wrong with that picture it would seem.
Here's a cost breakdown PER RESIDENT for Towns & Villages between Buffalo & Syracuse
Because of situations JUST LIKE THIS, New York State passed a law in 2010 called the Government Reorganization and Citizen's Empowerment Act (GRACE) to empower citizens to start their own efforts to reduce government layers and reorganize local municipalities to gain efficiency and lower overall taxes paid.
Educate yourself on Village Consolidation Here:
This WEBSITE explains the purpose and idea behind this NYS Village Government Consolidation.
There have been studies on the NY Govt. Reorganizational process and several Villages have voluntarily dissolved to save their residents undue hardship, They have consolidate services, and now have their Townships take the lead role in managing municipal services for the residents living in those villages. Some villages have put the Village Dissolution question up for a vote, as directed by the GRACE Act.
Some village votes have resulted in those Villages dissolving, and others have not consolidated when voting was in favor of keeping villages in place. The important part is that Villagers were able to vote & let their voice be heard.
Click the Picture to Download the Rockefeller Institute Report
Here is a website devoted to explaining the various branches of NYS Government and the role of County, City, Town & Village,
Finally, there is a NY Government Reorganization Handbook Guide that is available to help facilitate the dissolution & consolidation of a Village.
What is interesting to note is the section on Taxes from that NYGR Handbook.
Moving Forward with Village Consolidation:
Sadly, the issue of poorly run, inefficient, village governments is once again just going to divide neighbors, put villagers at odds with each other and maybe pit Town vs Town or Town vs Village. Many opposing canal change will make their own 'facts' up, deny the issue with Village Operation cost, and try to play on the sympathy of Canal Life being "lost".
That was the case with the recent work being done by the Canal Corporation on it's Erie Canal Earthen Embankment Integrity Program work, some will fight just "because".
Many Canal Villages will fight change tooth & nail, not because they think it's best to keep an expensive Village in place. They will resist this change, like most, because they are scared of the "unknown". You just have to ask yourself a question if you live in a Village along the Erie Canal,
Q: What would life be like for us without the Erie Canal Villages we have had all these years...?
A: Based on past NY Village Consolidations... most NY villages will be far less expensive for the residents & taxpayers to live within AFTER that level of NYS Government is combined with the Town
Click the Graph Below for MORE data
If you have read enough and want to know what YOUR village is doing about local Government Reorganization, you can click or touch the QR Code below and see a list of NY Canal Villages that are becoming "empowered" to act and try and fight against High NY State Taxation.
Or you can point your smartphone camera at the QR code and the website link will be made available for you to open and find your local village information. Android users may need to open a QR Code Reader App.
If you would like to signup and join our EMAIL LIST for announcements on Village Reorganization, click the IMAGE below to use our CONTACT FORM