Former Medina village trustees urge putting dissolution to a vote

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 24 June 2014 at 12:00 am

Photo by Tom Rivers – David Barhite, a former Medina village trustee, addresses the board on Monday and asks that village residents have a say in a public referendum whether the village government should be dissolved.

MEDINA – Several former village trustees for Medina are urging the current board to put the issue of village dissolution to a public vote.

“We know first-hand how difficult it is to maintain services while holding taxes steady,” according to a letter signed by several of the trustees that was read during Monday’s Village Board meeting.

David Barhite, a trustee until he wasn’t re-elected in March, shared the letter on Monday. The former trustees have service dating back 30 years. They said the current village government and tax structure is not sustainable unless there are rising home values, new construction or enlarged village borders through annexations.

Otherwise the village faces a declining tax base that will push tax rates even higher unless there are cuts in services and personnel.

A dissolution plan would reduce village taxes by about 30 percent while preserving current services.

Former Medina Mayor Marcia Tuohey doesn’t support dissolution. She said village taxes could be reduced with more cuts in the village budget.

“We urge the Village Board to put the plan up for a public vote so that the people – not the politicians – can have the final say,” the letter states.

The letter was signed by Barhite, James Hobbs, James Lustumbo, Judy Szulis, Bernard Amos, Wilson Southworth, Kelly Kiebala, Patricia Crowley, John P. Anderson, Robert Rice, Adam Tabelski, Norma Huth, Susan Squires and Timothy Cooper.

Wilson Southworth, a former village trustee, said villagers are double taxed for services. They pay both a town and village tax. If Shelby and Ridgeway exempted village residents for some services, such as snow plowing and highway, that would be a significant savings, Southworth said.

“To me it’s quite simple: don’t charge people for double,” he said. “It’s simple and it’s fair. Just let us pay for the services we receive.”

Southworth said the current unsustainable model in the village “will only get worse” without significant changes. He fears the tax base will continue to drop and taxes rise if the village doesn’t get some relief.

Not all former village officials favor dissolution. Marcia Tuohey, Medina’s mayor about 25 years ago, said the community could lower its taxes by reducing village expenses, including new equipment purchases, contingency, and other costs, such as trees, municipal dues, tourism and economic development.

The dissolution plan eliminates some village positions, mostly low-paid or volunteer ones on Planning and Zoning boards and other village committees. The village could do away with some of those posts right now to save some money, Tuohey said.

“If you support this plan eliminating them, why not have the guts to do it now and start saving tax dollars,” she said during Monday’s board meeting.

Village officials should also work with the towns for better coordination of services to benefit the village and towns of Ridgeway and Shelby, Tuohey said.

“I believe because the mayor and Village Board focused on the dissolution issue, the financial responsibilities and management of services have been neglected,” Tuohey said.