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Sherman dissolution vote less than one month away

November 30, 2016
By David Prenatt - , Westfield Republican

The vote for or against dissolution is less than a month away, but Sherman village residents still have questions that cannot be answered.

About 120 residents gathered in the village fire hall on Tuesday, Nov. 22 for a second informational meeting on the possible effects that dissolving the village would have for the area. The vote on the matter is scheduled for Dec. 20.

A five-person panel was assembled to help answer questions. Representing the Sherman area were Teresa Guzaman, fire chief Matt Oehlbeck and Tim Sears. These three served on the dissolution study committee. Also present was Daniel Heitzenrater, executive assistant of the Chautauqua Office of the County Executive, and George Borrello, Chautauqua County legislator for the sixth district.

Article Photos

Photo by David Prenatt
Sherman area residents gathered for an informational meeting regarding dissolution of the village.

The question of dissolving the village of Sherman was initiated nearly two years ago by town councilman James Higginbotham, who proposed the idea to the village board of trustees, but also noted that he would force the matter through citizen petition if the board did not pursue it on its own.

The village board did pursue the matter and held a public informational meeting in which a majority of residents present approved a dissolution study by Paul Bishop, Senior Associate of the Rochester firm CGR. The results of that study, which cost more than $13,000, were presented at an informational meeting on Aug. 9.

After this, the board of trustees voted not to pursue the matter of dissolution any further. Higginbotham then collected a petition containing signatures by at least 10 percent of the registered voters in order to force a public vote on the question.

According to the study, if the village is dissolved, residents should see a savings of $7.20 per assessed $1,000 assessed value for village residents. Town residents could expect to an increase in taxes.

New York state also provides a 15 percent tax relief credit to residents whose municipalities dissolve or merge. Seventy percent of this goes directly for property tax relief and 30 percent can be used for general operating expenses.

However, as Borello explained, services such as fire protection, water and sewer, lights and sidewalks would have to be paid for through the creation of districts. Each district would be a line item on a resident's tax bill, he said. For instance, a resident who received sewer and water service, had a sidewalk and received fire protection would pay the base tax rate plus an increment for each district as well.

Borello also noted that the town would assume responsibility for the water and sewer services and would have to hire licensed personnel to operate them.

If the residents vote in favor of dissolution, the village would be required to create a dissolution plan. However, Borello said, the town would not be required to use that plan.

Sears said that the CGR study does not give a picture of the actual impact that dissolution would have on Sherman residents. "One of the problems with the process is that you don't see the actual numbers unless the process is voted in. That's the way the state set it up," he said.

Guzman said she felt the study did not offer a clear picture of the effects of dissolution. "This is a 1,000-foot view of the problem. When you get down to the numbers, it's going to look different," she said. "I am a town resident and I am afraid that my taxes will go up."

Guzman responded to several comments about why the village was considering dissolution. "The best answer I get was that some people in the village are not satisfied with the way things are," she said. "But we need to be careful. You don't dissolve the village and then turn around and get it back."

Sherman resident Kevin Cole said there were more than financial questions at stake. "We're losing sight of some things," he said. "There are a lot less people in the village than there are in the town. I just think we always wanted a small community.we might save a few dollars but what are we going to lose."

Another resident responded that Sherman area residents should not divide themselves between town and village. "We are just Sherman," he said. "The new town will just be one. There's nothing wrong with being one."

Guzman agreed that living in Sherman was more than a matter of town or village. Rather, residents of both municipalities should focus on what is good. "We all are Sherman," she said. "We do not have the problems that much of the rest of the nation has. We all have to be thankful for that."

Sears urged residents to find out more. "Any question you have, please ask it. We are much better off being as informed as possible. I think we should consider everything," he said. "I think we should get the word out that there is going to be a vote on Dec. 20."



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