Medina will hold off on dissolution vote until it meets with towns

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

Mayor will seek joint session with town leaders

Photos by Tom Rivers – Ridgeway Town Supervisor Brian Napoli said promised state aid for a village dissolution shouldn’t be counted on. “A state guarantee means nothing,” he said.

MEDINA – A dissolution plan won’t be going to a vote by village residents until the Village Board can meet with town leaders in Shelby and Ridgeway.

“I don’t think at this point the public is ready for that,” said Village Trustee Mark Kruzynski at Monday’s board meeting.

Kruzynski and Michael Sidari pushed for a joint meeting with the towns, noting the dissolution discussions have been polarizing in the community and haven’t included the town officials.

Sidari first suggested the meeting among village, Shelby and Ridgeway officials exclude Mayor Andrew Meier, and town supervisors Brian Napoli of Ridgeway and Skip Draper of Shelby.

“There is a lot of butt-heading going on and a lack of trust,” Sidari said about the trio of leaders.

Meier said the mayor and town supervisors should be a part of the discussions because they are the chief executive officers with a big knowledge base of their respective governments.

“That would be a pretty big doughnut hole to have them be absent,” Meier said.

Village attorney Matt Brooks said it wouldn’t be legal to ban elected officials and residents from such meetings. The full Village Board authorized Meier to extend an invitation to the Town Boards to discuss the dissolution plan.

Village Mayor Andrew Meier said the current village government with high tax rates and a shrinking tax base is “unsustainable.” He is pictured next to Village Trustee Marguerite Sherman.

Meier welcomes the conversation, but he doesn’t want dissolution to be dragged out. He wants village residents to have a say on the issue in a public referendum.

Town leaders from Shelby and Ridgeway attended the Village Board meeting on Monday and urged the Village Board to look at ways for more shared services with the two towns, rather than just dissolving and having village functions passed to the towns, taxing districts or local development corporations.

The village tax rate is about $16 per $1,000 of assessed property. Dale Stalker, a Shelby town councilman, said about $10 of that rate is driven by emergency services – police, fire and ambulance – with the other $6 in services that are duplicative of the towns.

Stalker said there are ways to share those services and reduce costs to the community.

Ridgeway Town Councilman Jeff Toussaint also urged the Village Board to look closer at its budget and services to find ways to reduce costs.

Meier said the village has cut positions in DPW and police in an ongoing push the past 15 to 20 years to run a lean government. Meier said DPW has half the staff it did two decades ago.

The village faces an “unsustainable” model: its tax base is shrinking while its tax rate escalates, he told about 50 people during the board meeting.

Ridgeway Town Councilman Jeff Toussaint said the Village Board can reduce village taxes with better management of its budget and village staff, including making some hard choices about services already provided by the towns.

Medina’s combined village and town tax rates are about $20 per $1,000. With dissolution, it would fall to $14.30 in Ridgeway and $13.10 in Shelby.

Outside-village residents in Ridgeway currently pay a $6.71 rate for town, lighting and fire protection. That would rise 46 percent to $9.83 if the village dissolves and services are picked up according to the dissolution plan.

Shelby residents would see a 10 percent increase with dissolution with the current rate for outside-village residents going from $8.36 per $1,000 of assessed property to $9.17.

Toussaint said the towns shouldn’t have to subsidize the village, but Meier said the current system makes the village subsidize services to the towns with village residents double-taxed for many services. Dissolution would make the rates more equitable and fair, narrowing the gap between the village and outside village, Meier said.

Village Trustee Marguerite Sherman was elected in March. She doesn’t see dissolution as the answer. She sees more taxing districts if dissolution goes through, with less representation on the boards for the taxing districts and LDCs.

“I don’t want to give up on this village yet,” she said.

Meier said the dissolution plan shouldn’t be viewed as the village giving up. The plan brings balance to the tax rates, making Medina more affordable and attractive for residents and businesses, he said.

“I’m certainly heavily invested in the village,” he said. “I’m far from giving up on it.”

Toussaint also said the projected savings with dissolution aren’t very much. The plan identifies $277,000 in savings spread over three budgets that total about $11 million. That’s less than 3 percent. Toussaint said those savings would only be achieved if everything went according to the plan perfectly.

Toussaint and Brian Napoli, the Ridgeway town supervisor, questioned the $541,000 in additional state aid that has been identified for the dissolution. They doubt the money will be long-lasting. Napoli said the state has reduced promised funds for highway maintenance and assessing services.

“A state guarantee means nothing,” Napoli said about the additional aid with a dissolution.

About 50 people attended the Medina Village Board and many aired their views about a possible village dissolution.

Sherman said there is no certainty for residents that the dissolution plan, as proposed, would be followed by the two towns. She worries about service cuts for villagers.

“There’s no guarantee services will continue year to year,” Meier responded. “If we do nothing there is no way we can continue our level of services, unless we tax our residents into oblivion.”

Nathan Pace works as a local attorney. He was chairman of a previous committee that looked at shared services and consolidation among the village and two towns. The group favored dissolving the village and then merging the two towns.

He was critical of all the bickering among the village and towns, and their reluctance to sit down and discuss how to strengthen the overall community.

“It’s irresponsible,” Pace said. “Please come together. We have to sort this out. It is not that hard to sit down and come together.”