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Town isn’t paying fair share for services

By NORMAN P. GREEN

I had to shake my head a hard no reading Dunkirk Town Councilman Phil Leone’s quote opposing government consolidation in a recent OBSERVER write up. “We seem to be the only fiscally responsible town…,” said Leone in taking his neighboring communities to task and holding up the Town of Dunkirk as a fiscal model for the operation of government.

But a light dive into the Dunkirk Town budget would show that the secret to keeping taxes low for its residents is to lean on surrounding municipalities and state for services. Not funding those services in the town budget keeps town taxes low!

A police emergency? Dunkirk Town residents dial 911 and pursuant to current countywide mutual aid agreements the closest available police car responds to any reported emergency. It is likely a neighboring Dunkirk City or Fredonia Village police officer paid for by City or Village taxpayers will show up lights flashing at the Dunkirk Town residence in need. Or maybe it’ll be State Police, or County Sheriff’s patrol, but it won’t be the Town of Dunkirk police because the town does not fund a police department.

Courts? Absent a town police force, its cases are likely mostly generated from New York State Police issued tickets on state roads, particularly the New York State Thruway.

A fire emergency? When backup is needed for the great two department volunteer firefighters of the town, it’s likely that the larger and more expensive full-time Dunkirk City or Fredonia part- and full-time firefighters will necessarily come to the mutual aid backup and emergency rescue.

Sewer or Water Services?

Dunkirk Town residents not on septic systems depend on their sewage to be processed by the city or village processing plants. Same goes for water. The town has no sewer or water departments to fund in its general town budget. The retort of sometimes higher charged costs to established district customers does not completely cover the legacy costs of these plants and system lines.

Highway? The major thoroughfare highways in the town are state maintained Route 60 and US Route 5, along with several county-maintained routes including the commercial laden Vineyard Drive.

Library Services? Dunkirk Town taxpayers have historically depended on the City or Village for library services. Only recently has the Dunkirk Free Library won a funding support line through the Dunkirk School District tax billing, of which the town is a part of the school district.

Youth Services, Parks, Community Concerts? Nearly every other town in the county budgets for these services. But the Dunkirk City Pier is filled each Thursday in the summer with a lot of non-paying Dunkirk Town taxpayers enjoying concerts at the expense of Dunkirk City taxpayers. Dunkirk Town taxpayers also fill up the city owned Point Gratiot and Wright Park and the town kids seem to find their way onto Dunkirk City playgrounds, soccer fields, baseball diamonds and are found in the city taxpayer funded splashpad.

“I don’t think that our constituents understand what consolidation would mean for the Town of Dunkirk,” Leone was quoted in the May 28 OBSERVER. “I think we have a good reason not to consolidate,” he concluded.

Town Supervisor Priscilla Penfold responded in that same article to Leone’s comments, “My opinion is that it would be great for other communities. It would be a detriment to the Town of Dunkirk.”

My point to these Dunkirk Town leaders whom I respect; Righting the fiscal boats in northern Chautauqua County should be at some cost to the Dunkirk Town taxpayers who have enjoyed services without paying their fair share. Councilman Leone’s chiding Fredonia and Dunkirk City relating to finances ignores the historic reality of Dunkirk siphoning services from its neighbors without paying for what they receive. You do have a good reason to consolidate, it’s time to start paying for what services received and the future of our area depends on your community buy in.

Norman P. Green of Dewittville is a retired Chautauqua County government official and longtime advocate for the sharing of services to reduce all county taxpayer costs.

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