From The Mayor's Desk

A collection of writings about small town democracy
by Roy Reehil, Mayor of the Village of Cleveland, New York.

Cleveland Village Newsletter, Spring 1995

A Note From the Interim Mayor

Hello and thanks for giving this Village Newsletter a chance.

First of all let me tell you how I came to be Mayor.
Don Phelps resigned as Mayor on January 1 due to health concerns. I became a trustee to fill the vacancy left on the village board. Cyndy McClaine, Deputy Mayor asked me if I would be willing to serve as Mayor for the remainder of the term (until June elections) and with the approval of the board, I accepted.

I’ve lived in Cleveland for seven years with my wife Pat. I run my own small business and Pat and I own rental property in the village, as well as our home. We’re here for the long haul and what’s important to me now is that I do the best job that I can as Mayor — and to see if we can lower our taxes in the 1995-96 budget.
There are some good things happening in Cleveland and some difficult decisions. This newsletter is the best way I have to keep you informed.

Village News

Let’s start with the tough decisions. There are some residents who believe it is in the best interest of the community to dissolve the village and a petition is currently being circulated to put the dissolution on the June ballot. It is my goal as Mayor to keep you all informed and to provide you with as much pertinent information as possible. I am enclosing the sections of the village law that apply to dissolution of the village so that you can make your own decision about the petition, to sign it or not.

Viewpoint of the Mayor

Having read through the village law I believe that signing the petition to dissolve the village incorporation would be a mistake. There have been discussions in Cleveland about dissolving the village incorporation for many years. Several years ago the arguments in favor of dissolution may have been valid. Today, they are not.

What happens if the village is dissolved?

  1. We give up ownership of all village property, parks and equipment, including fire trucks.
  2. The town assumes any village debts & responsibilities.
  3. The town controls the ability to tax villagers to repay that debt (our debt is not billed to any town residents).
  4. We lose direct control of our sewer and water systems and the ability to set fees for those services.
  5. The village will lose the right to have a village owned fire department.

To put it simply, we lose the right to run our own village. Right now we are all part owners of the village water system, wastewater treatment plant, snow removal equipment and fire trucks… even if you didn’t vote for any of those projects, the reality is that we have them now.

The installation of the village wastewater treatment plant makes Cleveland an example to follow for other towns and villages. The town of Constantia is only now beginning to plan its own sewer and water project and the estimates for the towns water and sewer installation conservatively total over $10 million dollars. Constantia has included Cleveland in its initial plans because of our ability to sell services back to the town. That means that we are in a position to reduce our sewer and water rates, by selling our water and sewer services to as many people as we can reasonably accept. Right now, the village sewer treatment plant is running at about half of its capacity. That leaves plenty of room for growth. We’re through the toughest part of the sewer installation and start up, now we need to get smart and profit from the plant by selling services, which can lower our individual payments!

If we give up the right to run the Cleveland sewer and water plants, we give up the chance to profit from them. Read these sections of the village law very carefully:

Section: 19-1912: “…the outstanding debts and obligations of the village shall be assumed by the town and be a charge upon the taxable property within the limits of the dissolved village, and collected in the same manner as town taxes. The town board shall have all powers with respect to such debts and obligations as the board of trustees would have if the village had not been dissolved…”.

Section 19-1914: “…the town shall assume the duties and functions of the dissolved village and continue to provide the services provided by the village. The cost of such services shall be a charge upon the taxable property within the dissolved village.”

Section 19-1916: “Unless otherwise provided in the plan, the property of the village shall upon dissolution vest in the town.”

Dissolving the village doesn’t make the costs associated with running the village go away. It just shifts the responsibilities to the town of Constantia, who will in turn charge us—not the rest of the town—to run our village.

The village incorporation gives us, the voters of Cleveland, the right to own land, buildings, parks, equipment, municipal water and sewer systems, and a fire department. It gives us the right to collect fees and conduct village business. When you consider whether or not we should dissolve the village incorporation, ask yourself these four questions:

  1. Are we, as a village, capable of doing business for ourselves?
  2. Are we, as village residents, capable of cooperating to make our village government work?
  3. Would we be better off having the town make all village decisions for us?
  4. Should we permanently give up the right to own property and conduct business as a village?

I believe we are capable of running a village government well, and I don’t think we would be better off allowing others to manage our village and to make decisions for us.

But wouldn’t our taxes go down if we dissolve the village?

The premise of the dissolution petition is that our taxes would go down to the same rate as the town. But the town will need a clerk to do the billing and an operator for the water and sewer plants. They’ll also need additional help to cover plowing and maintenance for our parks and streets. It’s very likely that the town will keep the current village employees, and will bill us for their salaries, just like we do now. The town will not spread the cost of running the village over the entire town—they will bill additional expenses back to us, the property owners in the village. We will also lose the village owned fire department and the town will decide our tax cost for fire protection. The answer to the question “but wouldn’t our taxes go down?” is our taxes may go up or down depending on what the town decides to charge us!

Are you willing to give up the right to control our village business for the chance that taxes might go down?

If the reason behind the petition is to lower taxes—than we can do that! We can lower taxes by having the very control that dissolution would give up. This village board will propose a budget that lowers our village taxes this year. And we propose to work to increase the income of our sewer and water systems by selling services outside the village, which would lower our sewer and water bills. Help us! Come to the upcoming public hearing (date to be announced soon) to learn about our new budget and we’ll also discuss the impact of village dissolution. Participate in our village government and it will become smarter and stronger. Give it up to the town and we’ll have no say in our own village, and once the village is gone, we won’t get it back.

Thank you for taking the time to learn about this important issue.

—Roy Reehil, Mayor

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Copyright Roy Reehil, 2004