So when do area residents - and governments - become accountable for allowing poor decisions by current and past leadership?
It almost happened in Forestville, until Chautauqua County swooped in with what amounts to be a handout. On Wednesday, county legislators approved by a 17-1 margin a $150,000 loan to the chaotic village.
"If everything works out, the tax rate will be double," said village Mayor Kevin Johnson, who is attempting to look heroic for inheriting this mess. "From there, we'll be able to make improvements in the coming year. I think we can make something happen with this."
Before the county’s handout to the village, residents were facing a 445 percent tax increase. Now, they may face ONLY a 100 percent hike.
Trust us readers, we've all heard this before from the village.
In 2007 when a major waterline break led residents to be without running water in their homes for weeks, crews from Dunkirk, Fredonia, Chautauqua County, Jamestown and many other areas came to Forestville's assistance to get its water running again.
The village never paid for any of this assistance, which likely totaled into the tens of thousands of dollars. It was done by other entities on the premise of being good neighbors.
One year later, Forestville was asked to be part of a study on a regional water district. Their response then? No thanks. We do just fine on our own.
Not only did the village refuse to take part in a water study then, but it still will not even be at the table for discussions with the Chadwick Bay Regional Development Corp. The reason from the village? No thanks. We do just fine on our own.
Now consider actions by the board since the waterline break that led to what is a case for village bankruptcy in considering a 445 percent tax increase:
It hired a previous village clerk who was incompetent at her job, then rewarded her with annual pay raises.
Former Mayor Charles Brewster bailed out when he saw the writing on the wall on just how bad the finances became. His new job? He's now running the village streets department.
From 2007 to 2012, previous attorney Michael Bolender collected more than $330,000 from what is now a financially strapped village.
Exorbitant pay raises in 2010 and 2011 to village workers that were more than triple the inflation rate.
A previous trustee who held a grudge against a former resident that dates back to elementary school years - and then posted that resident's overdue water bill on their Facebook pages.
Sure. They do just fine on their own.
And now the rest of the county, just like in 2007, will help bail out Forestville for its problems.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is the problem with the structure of Western New York.
Forestville rarely has any contested elections, thus whoever runs, wins. Some may be capable, some definitely are not.
Government is a buddy system. Pat my back, we'll pat yours.
Last week, county government rewarded Forestville for seven years of incompetence and its lack of cooperation. For this, village residents will not be getting a 445 percent tax increase. They will, instead, be looking optimistically at a nearly 100 percent increase.
And despite all this good will and assistance from the county, nothing will change. Legislators, in approving the loan, enabled Forestville to continue on its shady and dubious past.
If there truly is no penalty - and the biggest penalty is the one that hits the pocketbooks - why should anyone change?
Besides, Forestville was doing just fine on its own.