When 444 Village of Keeseville residents turned out last month to vote 268 to 176 in favor of dissolving their municipality, it was a much better turnout than the 296 who voted in the last mayoral election.
That indicates that more people cared about whether to dissolve the village than cared to vote about its administration in recent elections.
Slightly less than a majority of Keeseville’s 955 registered voters came in to vote, which election officials anywhere will tell you is a decent turnout. It is the people who show up who decide major issues like this. Apathy does not spur changes of any kind.
The interesting aspect of this vote is that the dissolution study showed that the change will save money only because of state aid — and not that much money anyway. In Keeseville, the most a taxpayer could save is pegged at about $400 a year.
Dissolution of villages, in general, is marketed by the state as saving a lot of money, but that has not always been borne out in local communities that have dissolved. Many residents of Westport and Ticonderoga now say they should have kept their villages. Town and special-district taxes went up in those communities after dissolution, surpassing previous village taxes.
State Department of State representatives go from village to village, giving advice and holding workshops to explain how to dissolve a village. Dissolution benefits the state by reducing the number of municipalities to which it must provide aid and services. The Keeseville petition was submitted soon after a how-to workshop there.
Keeseville will cease to exist as a village on Dec. 31, 2014, unless the plan for dissolution is petitioned to a referendum and then rejected in another public vote.
The Village Board must adopt a dissolution plan, which may be the one compiled by a private consultant and committee of residents from the village and two surrounding towns. Some dissolution supporters have expressed concern that the board might modify the existing plan to make it unpopular with voters. We urge village officials to handle the upcoming changes with professionalism.
The recommended plan — available for download at keeseville.ning.com — creates special districts for streetlights, sidewalks, water, sewer and village debt.
The plan shows a savings for people with property assessed at $100,000 or more, and a declining savings for those with less expensive homes. In fact, at under $70,000 of assessment, people would start paying more for special districts than they paid in village taxes.
But the people have spoken, and Keeseville leaders are now in charge of eliminating their own jobs.
A session being held at 7 tonight by the State Department of State will share more information on how dissolution will be accomplished. Community members should show up to claim a role in shaping their future governance.