Details unveiled for proposed government reduction initiative

“If we can reduce taxes, I think we can keep more of our people here.” Legislator Terry Niebel, R-Sheridan

MAYVILLE — Details have emerged regarding a proposed county government reduction initiative.

Legislator Terry Niebel, R-Sheridan, came before the County Legislature’s Administrative Services Committee earlier this week to discuss specifics behind legislation he’s proposing to assist local governments that successfully dissolve or consolidate. Following a conversation and questioning, the committee unanimously gave its approval.

Last month, legislators approved a local law giving the county authority to provide financial assistance to local municipalities that dissolve or consolidate. In the instance of a village dissolution, the proposal details the county providing to a town in which the dissolving village is located a one-time payment equal to the sales tax payment made to the village in the year preceding the dissolution.

The amount, however, would not exceed $50,000. Fifty percent of the payment could be utilized by the town with no restrictions. The other half would be required for services that a village had that the town doesn’t provide, such as a youth program or sidewalk snow removal.

As for consolidation among towns, the county would provide to the newly-formed entity a sum of the sales tax payments made to each town in the year preceding the consolidation. The amount provided would be capped at $50,000. No restriction would be placed on what the funds could be used for.

Money dispersed to newly-formed governments wouldn’t have to be spent all in one year, according to Niebel.

“We’re allowing the county to assist if these municipalities can reduce layers of government and reduce taxes,” Niebel said. “If we can reduce taxes, I think we can keep more of our people here. I’m also hopeful this resolution will spur economic development.”

The village of Cherry Creek is on its way to dissolution after voters gave their approval in February. The village still has a few steps to go through before the dissolution is final.

According to Niebel, the village’s sales tax totaled $40,000 last year. Through the proposed program, the county could give funds to the town of Cherry Creek with an agreement in place and legislative approval.

Chairman Bob Scudder, R-Fredonia, questioned Niebel over who would oversee the money. Niebel said he doesn’t think the county should oversee it. A newly-formed town would get the money with specifications.

Legislator Paul Whitford, D-Jamestown, asked how county taxpayers will see the program’s impact.

“If we’re going to vote on it, we have to make sure our constituency has a buy-in to this program because it does affect the entire county,” Whitford said.

Niebel and County Attorney Steve Abdella noted a contract would be in place between the county and town or village once a dissolution or consolidation is successful. Requirements and guidelines would be established within the agreement.

“What our intent is here is to allow the county to work out an agreement with each village or township,” Niebel said. “They will include accountability.”

The resolution before legislators doesn’t include the step to fund the program. Niebel said disbursement of funds would come with a separate resolution depicting an agreement between a town and the county. Niebel said he doesn’t envision the county disbursing a $50,000 payment every year.

“Some years it won’t even be any because there are some villages that would never dissolve,” he said.

The resolution will go before the full County Legislature for consideration at next week’s meeting in Mayville.