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Mannsville residents weigh factors in village dissolution vote

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MANNSVILLE — The village government’s future will be decided Tuesday as residents vote on whether to dissolve into the town of Ellisburg.

Interviews with village and town residents and officials indicate mixed opinions, with nostalgia and a certain skepticism of the advertised tax savings weighing on many minds. The vote’s outcome may hang on which age groups turn out to the polls.

Mayor Lori Cashel, who is running unopposed Tuesday and could end up being the village’s last mayor, did not want to guess how the decision will go, acknowledging, “I’m not so sure what I’m going to do when I get in there” to vote.

The vote follows a study of dissolution’s impact and months of public forums. Ms. Cashel said the study process helped inform residents about what dissolution would mean for taxes and services.

The Board of Trustees and the Zoning Board would be disbanded. The village clerk’s job and a village public works position would be eliminated.

While base tax rates would drop substantially for village residents, services such as leaf pickup, hydrant flushing and Christmas decorating would be lost. Also eliminated would be snow plowing at places like the Mannsville Volunteer Fire Department. Village residents still would pay for streetlights and the water project’s debt.

Dissolution would take effect May 31, 2014.

“There’d be a sadness with that,” Ms. Cashel said. “If it’s what the residents of the village want, that’s what’s most important to me.”

The village of 354 residents, as of the 2010 Census, was incorporated in 1879 and has seen its population remain stable during the last 50 years.

Discussing the matter at his shop just outside the village limits on March 5, James J. Joyner voiced hope the village would not dissolve.

A member of the village’s dissolution committee and lifelong resident, Mr. Joyner expressed skepticism about savings the change would produce.

“We might save a little bit of money, but it’s not going to be substantial,” he said.

Mr. Joyner added residents would not realize the level of services the village offers until they were gone, and he hoped they would vote.

Reached by phone Friday, Kenneth R. Gerni, chief of the Mannsville Volunteer Fire Department, showed concern the town may not cover the $4,000 the village provided to supplement its budget.

“If dissolution goes through, there would have to be some changes,” he said, such as more fundraisers.

Mr. Gerni said the consensus he saw was the village would not dissolve.

The town and village area’s base taxes would drop with dissolution because of employee and overhead cost reductions and the state Citizen Empowerment Tax Credit created in 2011. The aid is worth about 15 percent of the combined village and town budget, or about $136,000 per year. State rules require 70 percent of the aid be used for property tax relief.

Including the state credit, the village’s tax rate could fall from $5.40 per $1,000 of assessed value to $2.90, a 45 percent reduction. In the town, the credit would push base rates from $2.40 to $1.90, a 20 percent drop.

Some around the village and town have expressed concern about the credit’s longevity. A spokesman for the state Department of State wrote in an email message Friday that language in the legislation stipulates annual payments as long as money is available.

Without the credit, the village’s tax rate will be $3.10 and the town’s rate will be $2.50.

Lawrence J. Rudd, owner of Rudd’s Family Maple Syrup, just outside the village, said Friday he does not oppose dissolution, adding the village is limited in the services it can offer.

“I don’t think it’s going to be that big of an issue,” he said. “For some people, they fear change, just like anybody else. The times are moving on.”

Mr. Rudd, of the third generation to live on his family’s farm, will not be able to vote Tuesday.

If the village dissolves, it will join a handful of villages that have made a similar move in the last three years, including Altmar, Edwards, Seneca Falls, Perrysburg, Randolph and East Randolph. However, multiple communities, such as Chaumont, have defeated dissolution proposals.

Henry M. Colby, town councilman and a dissolution committee member, said after the council’s March 7 meeting there would be no complaints from the council if the village dissolved.

Mr. Colby said he had noticed somewhat of a split along age lines, with older residents interested in maintaining the village and younger people less vocal about the change.

“It’ll be interesting to see whether they vote with their pocketbook or their sentiment,” he said.

A village government-created website explains how the village functions and positions that would cease or merge with the town. It can be viewed at www.cgr.org/private_mannsville/index.aspx.

In other elections, Jonny Boenning, James T. Pelton and Rebecca Reed will appear on the ballot for two vacant village Board of Trustees seats. Polls will be open from noon to 9 p.m. at the village office, 106 Lilac Park Drive.

Other villages voting on dissolution Tueday will be Victory and Champlain.

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