Recently there was a very interesting article on potential cost savings to dissolve villages into towns and the savings offered in additional aid by the state. The first thing that strikes me is why would the state pay incentives? Perhaps we should offer an incentive to the state — stop offering nonvalue-added subsidies, and we will let you keep a portion of the excess taxing you are taking to pay for the subsidy.
What I would like to see would be a reverse of the study. The highest densities are located in the villages. Why not dissolve the town and make the entire town a village? I know that sounds crazy, but consider this. In a township, if you need water, sewer, sidewalks, street lights, etc., you are taxed as a special district. To get these districts established requires a majority-plus-one vote on top of significantly more cumbersome processes as opposed to doing the exact same construction within a village. With a special district, you can have people in a situation where a well goes bad and there is no alternative unless your neighbors want to absorb a portion of your cost. By law, 100 percent of the cost is shared by the owners where the water line runs, regardless if they use it or not. This is a multi-year process. In a village, all costs are divided equally among the entire community; we all have skin in the game, and we all prosper or fail with infrastructure that is selected by the officials we voted for. The village has the ability to embrace work immediately, providing the funds or the funding is available via reserves, bond or loan.
Where I live, 70 percent of the residents signed a petition to have the town disclose the cost of a potential special district for a sidewalk. The petition was not to build it, just let us know the cost so we can consider a vote. That was more than a year and a half ago.
If the desire is to preserve as much green space as possible while maximizing growth, then we should encourage development in or adjacent to village areas. Doing so would reduce the number of vacant buildings in downtown areas and minimize blight. For residential construction, village codes hold the advantage, as there are no foolish setbacks and minimum lot sizes that you find elsewhere. The same village home built in a town can require 300 percent more lawn. Lawn that is being watered, mowed, fertilized, insectisized, laborized. Plus the added cost of longer sidewalks, more street light posts and longer water runs, more fire hydrants, less agricultural space and so on. Concentrating growth areas means maximized efficiencies. The concentration is the village.
Efficiency is almost always at the smaller government level. An example in the town of Manchester, if you take the combined mayors' salaries for Shortsville, Manchester and Clifton Springs, that total amount is less than the amount that the Victor supervisor’s salary has been increased since 2000.
There are two things that are certain. If you give a municipality extra state funding, it will spend it in a manner that makes it a permanent annual expenditure. The other is this — if you merge two government organizations, the salaries will be matched to the higher salaried employee. Taking “free money” from the state is not an efficiency, it’s an addiction. Albany is dealing, and our local representatives should be more vocal in stopping it, even as we beg them for more of it.
Matt Schaertl of Shortsville is a frequent contributor to the Daily Messenger.