Towns say they can cut Medina village taxes through shared services

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 29 July 2014 at 12:00 am

Shelby, Ridgeway decline dissolution, will look at savings through highway

Photos by Tom Rivers – Shelby Town Supervisor Merle “Skip” Draper, center, said the town will look at assuming some of Medina’s non-emergency services to see how that would affect the tax rate for village residents and town residents outside the village. Town Board members William Bacon, left, and Steve Seitz were also at a joint session among Shelby, Ridgeway and Medina officials.

MEDINA – Before the Village of Medina makes a radical change and dissolves – a move that could shave $6 off the village’s tax rate – the towns of Shelby and Ridgeway believe they can find significant savings for the village with shared services.

Shelby Town Supervisor Skip Draper wants to see how much villagers could save if the two towns took over the village’s highway services. The village already pays twice for the service: to the village and then to either Ridgeway or Shelby.

Draper noted that the town of Yates plows the village of Lyndonville’s roads. He thinks a similar arrangement could work for the village of Medina, which sits about halfway in Shelby and halfway in Ridgeway.

Medina Mayor Andrew Meier reluctantly supported the shared service pursuit. Meier said the issue was brought up before during doomed shared services discussions about two years ago. Meier said a dissolution plan already gives village taxpayers the $6 savings and spells out how current village services would be provided by either the towns, or local development corporations.

About 50 residents attended the meeting at Shelby Town Hall to watch 15 elected officials talk about possibly sharing more services among two towns and the village of Medina.

But Ridgeway and Shelby officials say they won’t talk about dissolution. That angered Meier, who said a committee and consultants worked for nearly a year on the plan.
“There has been a concerted effort to ignore the plan,” Meier said at a joint meeting Monday evening among the three boards.

He asked the two towns to correct “false statements” they have made publicly about the plan.

“That’s your opinion,” Draper responded.

Napoli said the two towns weren’t asked to helped shape the plan.

“That is your plan,” Napoli told Meier. “We were not asked to be involved.”

Meier shared an email from July 2013 that Napoli sent to Scott Sittig, the lead consultant for the plan from the Center for Governmental Research in Rochester. Napoli told Sittig that Ridgeway would not cooperate with the study because “it was a waste of taxpayer money and a waste of Town of Ridgeway employees’ time.”

Meier told Napoli he “removed himself from this process.”

Meier was chided by a mediator, Richard Moffit, for pressing dissolution and Meier’s perceived slights from the towns.

“You can’t keep bringing up the past,” Moffit said.

The highway discussions represented a good start in potential tax savings, he said.

Medina Village Trustee Mike Sidari urged the three local boards to find some common ground. He is joined by Trustee Marguerite Sherman of Medina, Mayor Andrew Meier, left, and Richard Moffit, right, who served as mediator at Monday’s meeting.

Ridgeway and Shelby officials said they wanted to focus on shared services, which can provide immediate relief to taxpayers, rather than a drawn-out process with dissolution. That plan called for creating an LDC to manage some services, create an ambulance district, a debt district and pass other services, including police, to the towns. Draper said it could take years to establish the new taxing entities.

“We should look at everything rather than create LDCs and new layers of government,” he said.

Draper took command of the meeting at times, offering to crunch the numbers and work with Shelby Town Highway Superintendent Mike Fuller about how the town could take over some of the village highway costs.

Draper asked Meier to provide the village’s non-emergency budget for costs outside of police, fire and ambulance. Draper said emergency services account for about $10 of the village $16.45 tax rate. He expects the towns could bring down the other $6-plus of the village tax rate by assuming some of the non-emergency services.

Meier said he would have those budget figures, as well as the revenues for each service, to the two towns by the end of the week.

Draper said he would determine potential cost savings to the village and cost increase to Shelby by the next joint session, which was scheduled for 7 p.m. on Sept. 2.

Meier said the cost impacts have already been spelled out in the dissolution plan. He returned to that document several times during Monday’s hour-long meeting, but town officials wouldn’t discuss the plan in detail.

Mary Woodruff, a Ridgeway councilwoman, said the community isn’t ready for dissolution. The shared services discussions could better prepare the community and the boards for a dissolution and perhaps a merger of the two towns, she said.

One Medina, a group headed by local attorney Nathan Pace with support from Meier, favors dissolving the village and merging the two towns. But Woodruff said that is premature right now.

Town leaders also want to look at how water and sewer services are provided among the three governments and try to find ways to reduce administration and costs for that service.

A long-awaited joint session among the Medina, Ridgeway and Shelby boards occurred on Monday at the Shelby Town Hall.

Draper said the local government leaders will have their work cut out if they are to make a significant change in the tax burden for the village.

“That $6 won’t just disappear with a magic wand,” he said. “There’s work you have to do.”

Meier has pressed for dissolution because he said the current village government isn’t sustainable. The tax base tends to shrink every year as housing values fall. That puts pressure on the village to raise the tax rate. The $16.45 per $1,000 of assessed property is one of the highest in the region. Villagers then have the added burden of paying a $3.04 rate to Ridgeway and $3.35 to Shelby for a combined town-village rate of nearly $20.

“The elephant in the room is the $16.45,” Draper acknowledged.

Dissolution would shift some costs to the two towns. But even with dissolution residents outside the village would pay far less in taxes than the village property owners.

The Ridgeway residents outside the village 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 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. That would raise taxes for a $70,000 home from $585 to $642.

Meier said he wants to compare the impact to outside-village residents with the shared service possibilities and the dissolution plan. The dissolution plan should receive support from the towns, Meier said, if it proves the best way to reduce village taxes while minimizing an increase to the towns, and still maintaining services in the community.