By FELICIA KRIEG
---- — CHAMPLAIN — The Village of Champlain has been under scrutiny in light of the impending vote on dissolution Tuesday.
Voters go to the polls Tuesday to choose “yes” or “no” on ending village government and having the Town of Champlain take over.
A “yes” majority means the village would begin working on a plan for dissolution. Villagers would have one more chance to halt the process, if enough sign a petition to trigger another public referendum.
If dissolution is shot down then, it can’t be brought up again for four years.
Kevin Triller, who forced Tuesday’s vote through that same permissive referendum process, has said village government is redundant and provides very few services to residents.
Mayor Greg Martin disagrees.
Here is a look at what it costs to run the village and what tax dollars support.
The Village of Champlain employs six full-timers and between three and four part-timers (the recreation leader and, for elections, election inspectors).
Also on the payroll are the mayor and four members of the Village Board as well as the buildings/zoning/code enforcement officer that the village contracts with the Town of Champlain.
The village also has an attorney on retainer.
TAXES AND DEBTS
The 2013 to 2014 property tax rate is $3.88 per $1,000 of assessed property value. That’s a 32 cent decrease from last year’s $4.20 per $1,000.
For the four years before that, the rate fluctuated between $4.26 and $4.44.
That tax levy goes into the village’s general fund, which pays for a variety of services provided to residents, Martin said.
“With the 2 percent tax cap that was imposed upon us, less than 1 percent of all these (state) taxing entities were able to lower their tax rate last year,” Martin said.
Other than a wastewater and separate water-fund loan, the village has no debts, Martin said.
Currently, the village owes $602,000 between the two loans, about $252,000 for the wastewater system and $350,000 on the water service, Martin said.
The wastewater loan will be paid off in two years, he said.
For the water loan, the village will make a $45,000 payment — $35,000 in principal and $10,000 in interest, this year, Martin said.
And an extra principal payment of $35,000 will also be made on the water loan this year, he said.
“Every year, we knock it down a little,” Martin said.
A private bank recently took on the federal water loan — that will save village taxpayers about $80,000 in interest over the life of the loan, he said.
Village expenses include administration and vehicle-maintenance costs, along with operation of the Department of Public Works, Martin said.
Among the services Public Works provides to residents are street and sidewalk plowing and street repair and maintenance.
The village also pays for streetlights, youth sports and recreation programs, the village festival in the summer and other events including films and concerts in the park and ice cream socials.
The water and wastewater funds are separate, Martin said.
“We’ve kept the water and wastewater rates stable for the last four years,” he said. “I think we can do it again this year.”
Money is also delegated for property maintenance of the Village Office, public works building and the park; the zoning and planning boards and village’s insurance policy.
The municipality also donates some money to the library every year, Martin said.
TAX RATES UNKNOWN
The Village of Champlain sits within the town that shares its name; village landowners pay both the village levy and then a portion of town tax.
Merger of the two would mean the town’s cost for road repair and snow removal — which villagers don’t pay for now — would be reconfigured to have all within the new town boundaries sharing it among them. (The Village of Rouses Point is also in the town — Champlain dissolution would not affect it.)
Calculations have yet to be made to determine how tax rates for former villagers and town property owners, as well, would be affected should dissolution occur, but Wade Beltramo, general counsel to the New York State Conference of Mayors said earlier that he thought villagers would pay less.
Triller believes the town would be able to easily perform the services now provided by the village.
“The only thing that’s going to change is the name on the side of that truck.”
What’s more, he said, many of the sidewalks and streets in the village are in a terrible state of disrepair.
“It’s not a personal thing; it’s a logical thing. I don’t have a vendetta against Greg, the board or (village) employees,” he said.
“I talked to Greg at length before I started the petition.”
‘FAST VILLAGE RESPONSE’
Village resident Chris Babbie says the village is quick to respond to residents’ requests.
“Whenever you need to have something done, they’re fast.”
But for Triller, that’s not enough to keep the village intact.
“I have to laugh every time I hear (the term) services,” he said.
If dissolution passes, Triller asked, “is the picnic in the park going to change? Are we not going to sing Christmas carols this year? Do I have to take my leaves to the dump?”
The village has been unable to demolish abandoned or neglected buildings that plague village property, Triller said.
“When things leave, nothing replaces it,” he said. “They’re vacant lots.”
Beltramo said at a recent meeting that, while it is the village’s responsibility to demolish abandoned properties, no state funding is provided to aid with that.
Towns face that same dilemma.
TOWN AWAITS VOTE
“It was interesting when he (Beltramo) started out saying it should be the town that has the dissolution study because they’re the ones that are going to have to take over if the village chooses to dissolve,” Martin said. “It’s the town that really needs to be more participating in the whole process.”
Town Supervisor Larry Barcomb declined to weigh in on the issue until after the village vote.
Town officials haven’t conducted any research yet that would detail how village dissolution would affect town taxes or services, Secretary to the Supervisor Jane West said.
Calculations have been done “in our heads and so forth; nothing on paper,” she said.
“We would certainly have to consult with our assessor.”
Official calculations would be done if the village votes to dissolve, West said.
Email Felicia Krieg:firstname.lastname@example.org
The vote is noon to 9 p.m. Tuesday at the Champlain Village Office.
See Home Town Cable's dissolution debate between Mayor Greg Martin and village resident Kevin Triller today at 11 a.m., 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Time Warner Cable channel 24 or online at hometowncablenetwork.com.
Also on that site is the village's March 7 meeting on the topic. Find dissolution information at www.dos.ny.gov.