BY LOHR McKINSTRY
---- — KEESEVILLE — Keeseville officials are concentrating on updating financial predictions in their draft village dissolution plan before passing the final version.
Voters approved dissolving the Village of Keeseville in a January vote, and the Village Board has until mid August to pass an official plan for how that disbanding will take place.
The plan will spell out how Keeseville’s functions and property are turned over to the towns of Chesterfield in Essex County and AuSable in Clinton County.
At a recent special meeting, the Keeseville Village Board and Mayor Dale Holderman met with dissolution consultant Timothy Weidemann of Rondout Consulting of Kingston to consider how the draft plan prepared by the Joint Dissolution Study Committee will be tweaked to become the final plan.
“There is no accurate dollar amount of what this is going to cost,” Holderman said. “We have to get those figures from the towns.”
He said town representatives believe they’ll need only a few additional positions, but that expectation may be too conservative.
“We bring 1,800 people to the towns,” Trustee Mary King said. “Why wouldn’t the expectation be to increase positions?”
Adding jobs to town budgets would decrease savings from dissolution, but Weidemann said the dissolution study already takes some of that into account.
“There some fudge-factor already built into the plan. There is no expectation of savings from overestimated tax savings.”
He said other village dissolutions have typically resulted in about a 10 percent increase in town taxes.
“What’s different about Keeseville is some services have already been shifted to the towns’ budgets. On the property tax side, residents will see some savings. That’s what came out of the study.”
Local courts and animal control are already on town budgets, as is property assessing.
Weidemann said the plan theorizes that new positions like plant operators, highway workers and water-sewer clerks will be needed by the towns after dissolution, and he estimated those costs at $90,000 per town.
Reached at his office after the special meeting, Chestertown Town Supervisor Gerald Morrow said the only new position Chesterfield anticipates creating is for a water-plant operator, since his town will assume the village water system. AuSable is taking over the village sewer plant and will add staffing for that facility.
Weidemann said he’s going to suggest creating one joint water-sewer district for the former village, instead of four districts, two in each town, that the report now advocates.
Both town councils should be involved in a dialogue on issues like that, he said, and King said she’ll attend town meetings to find out what each is planning to do should the village be gone.
“Having something from them would make it clear to village residents what’s going to happen,” Weidemann said. “There are things that were never fully discussed.
“Getting some clarity on what the towns would do is helpful.”
He said the towns should be asked to pass resolutions so everything is clear.
Morrow said his Town Council has already passed resolutions that no new special districts, such as lighting, sidewalks and trash collection, will be created after Keeseville dissolves.
The only new tax will be one for village debt, he said.
It’s true that one thing that will remain when Keeseville dissolves is village liability, Weidemann said.
“A liability of the former village continues to be a liability of former village taxpayers.
“The towns will levy a special tax.”
The liability includes village debt that exists at the time of dissolution, plus the retirement plan for already-retired village workers.
Trustee Kathleen Klages said she believes that when village taxes are gone, increased town taxes and other charges would replace them.
“I think people are going to be paying the same in taxes. Taxpayers in the village aren’t saving a thing.”
Dissolution is a savings when state dissolution aid is figured in, but the state has only had the aid program for two years, Weidemann said, and it has to be renewed every year.
“All that makes it a complicated equation that doesn’t affect everyone the same way,” he said. “None of this is simple.”
He said his firm is creating worksheets that village taxpayers can use to figure what they’ll pay in taxes and fees in the future versus what they pay under the village.
When the Village Board approves the dissolution plan, it goes to a public hearing within 90 days, then the village has 60 days after that to pass the final plan.
Once the final plan is OK’d, village residents have 45 days to petition a vote on the plan. If that vote fails, the village does not dissolve.
Holderman said they’ve considered using a management firm to guide them through dissolution. The estimated cost would be $20,000 to $25,000, and Weidemann said they could apply for a state grant for that service.
“I would immediately start looking for a firm,” he said. “Especially because you’ll need equipment and property appraisals.”
Holderman said if they sell some Department of Public Works equipment, the money could be used on village debt service.
“I don’t think we’ll have any debt when this is done. I think we’ll have paid that debt off.”
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