MEDINA – The battle for hearts and minds continues in Medina, with Mayor Andrew Meier touting dissolution of the village and the towns of Ridgeway and Shelby rejecting the notion.
Every property owner in the towns, including village residents, was to receive a letter from the town governments this weekend criticizing the dissolution plan.
Supervisors Brian Napoli of Ridgeway and Merle Draper of Shelby said in Buffalo News interviews that the estimated budgetary savings that would result from dissolution is small, and the projections have been decreasing as time goes on. They accused Meier of exaggerating the tax impact, too.
Meanwhile, Meier responded in an interview that he thinks the amount being saved is worth the effort.
The mayor, in his third year in office, began pushing for dissolution after talks for shared services among the three localities fell apart last year. The dissolution plan would turn the village’s employees over to the towns, which, Meier concedes, are not obliged to keep them on the payroll.
“They were asking us to subsidize services for them rather than share services,” Napoli said.
The border between Ridgeway and Shelby cuts the Village of Medina roughly in half. All village property owners pay town taxes as well as village taxes. Although admitting town taxes would rise if the dissolution plan were implemented as it stands, Meier says village residents still would see their tax rates drop by about 30 percent.
His estimate is that the owner of a village home assessed at $80,000 would see a net reduction of about $500 a year.
Draper said the average assessment is closer to $70,000 and accused Meier of using the larger figure to make the plan look better. Meier responded, “OK, so it’s $70,000. Let’s use that. That’s $420 a year.”
Napoli said that the leading complaint of town residents who live outside the village borders is that only residents inside the village are to be allowed to vote in a referendum on dissolution. That’s dictated by state law.
The estimates by the Center for Government Research, the Rochester think-tank that has helped draw up the dissolution plan, project a reduction of $277,000 in total spending when one adds up the budgets of the village and the two towns. Draper said that’s about 2 percent of the total spending of the three communities.
“I think it’s foolish to turn everything upside-down for 2 percent,” Draper said.
Meier said, “Pooh-poohing $277,000 tells me they’re not willing to work to save the taxpayers money. I think $277,000 a year forever is worth working for.”
Napoli noted that there is a history of sharing services that didn’t produce tax savings. In 2010, the village court was abolished and its caseload was turned over to the towns. The village tax rate that year fell by 26 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation to $15.12, but it has gone up every year since then, and currently stands at $16.45.
Dissolution might find village residents paying special district taxes for fire protection and other services the towns don’t want to offer as a general expense. But the main controversy is the future of the village’s 11-member police force.
The plan calls for turning the cops over to Ridgeway, which may not want to keep them.