Middleburgh pushed to February vote on dissolution


By Patsy Nicosia

Dissolving the Village of Middleburgh would increase taxes in the Town of Middleburgh by almost 45 percent.
That's according to a report put together by Mayor Matthew Avitabile and trustees in the wake of an October petition for dissolution from Gary Hayes and signed by about 85 village residents.
Voting on the petition will be February 19.
Mayor Avitabile said by law, the decision must be fast-tracked because the petition came from voters.
If it passes, he said, the next step would be for the village to put together a comprehensive plan for doing away with services like its Department of Public Works, the Codes Office, and the village-owned Middleburgh Fire Department by September 15, 2013.
Dissolution would take place by April 2016.
Mr. Hayes, who is in Florida, said in an email that he believes "consolidation/dissolution" may be one way to save taxpayers money and he believes it's worth studying.
"Let's see what the study comes up with," Mr. Hayes said. "...the taxpayers deserve the best for their dollar and this just may be the issue."
Mayor Avitabile said he's opposed to dissolution for a handful of reasons, not the least of which is that he believes it eliminates a chance for the savings that would come by consolidating more services with the town.
"Dissolution and consolidation are completely different," he said, "and there are already a lot of efficiencies between the village and the town.
"If we dissolve, we lose the chance for savings that would come from consolidation."
Mayor Avitabile said he believes village residents are confused by the differences between dissolution and consolidation; the village board will be mailing copies of its report to residents and is planning public meetings on the issue.
Mayor Avitabile said he's also bothered by the fact that town residents can't vote on dissolution-even though they'll be picking up the brunt of the tax burden.
The village-issued report on dissolution looks at the DPW, Fire Department, Sewer, water, Lighting and Cemetery Departments, Youth Commission. Codes Enforcement, and Village Government, and concludes there would be little in the way of savings from dissolving any of them.
Taking the DPW as an example, it estimates savings at $348-$848 annually after the department's employees join the town DPW's payroll and points to a 2009 study by Barton and Loguidice Engineers that concludes "neither department contains much fat."
Savings by passing other departments onto the town would be equally minimal, Mayor Avitabile said, with things like the village pool, Miracle on Main Street, the Fire Department, and the Middleburgh Business Association likely eliminated completely.
Mayor Avitabile estimated the overall savings at about $70,000 annually, but said that doesn't include the legal and other costs of drawing up the dissolution plan.
Bottom line figures show the average village taxpayer saving $49 a year; the average town taxpayer would pay an additional $295 a year.
Plus, Mayor Avitabile said, there's another cost.
"We're still working on recovery from Hurricane Irene," he said. "Dissolution will put an end to economic growth in the village."