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From the Desk of Mayor Peter Cavallaro: June 5, 2009

Westbury Mayor Joins Nassau County Mayors in Opposition to Proposal to Eliminate Villages

Peter Cavallaro, mayor of the Village of Westbury, joined mayors from across Nassau County in opposing New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s local government consolidation plan. The Village of Westbury is a member of the Nassau County Village Officials Association (NCVOA), which is comprised of 64 incorporated villages in Nassau County representing nearly 450,000 residents.

“This proposed bill is nothing more than a ploy to generate media attention,” said Mayor Cavallaro. “Many believe New York State has too many levels of government. But the proliferation of the thousands of special taxing districts is the creation of the towns and cities and has nothing to do with villages.”

According to Mayor Cavallaro, the local government consolidation proposal would reduce from 33 percent to 10 percent the number of registered voters’ signatures necessary to force a village dissolution study and referendum. The Village of Westbury has over 14,000 residents. Under the plan, as little as 1400 residents could compel the village to spend tens of thousands of dollars to conduct a dissolution study and then a public vote. If the vote is unsuccessful the first time it can be revisited in three years. If it is successful, the village board would have to create a dissolution plan that would not be approved by village residents.

“Many municipal experts dispute the notion that eliminating or consolidating villages would produce substantial cost savings.  In fact, many people believe that the problem is not at the Village level at all, and that the villages do the best job of any local government in terms of providing cost effective services.  Maybe the State government should consider fixing Albany first, before they seek to place blame for taxes on village government, which comprises one of the smallest components of New York residents’ annual tax expenses.”

Mayor Cavallaro cited a report prepared by Donald Boyd, a senior fellow at the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government, at the request of the Commission on Local Government Efficiency and Competitiveness. In referring to village dissolutions, Mr. Boyd states in his report, “Tax increases in the town-outside-village area have been the norm in past village dissolutions” and that a village dissolution where urbanized village services have been provided “may result in the creation of multiple special assessment districts.” In other words, eliminating a single village opens the door for creating multiple new special taxing districts.

Mr. Boyd continued his opinion of village dissolution by quoting a researcher (Jered Carr 2004) and writing, “Simply put, the ability of consolidated government to produce benefits promised by its proponents has not been established.” He also writes, “Literature reviews have suggested that costs of merged governments are not necessarily lower than the costs of individual governments and can be higher” and “Many studies found higher costs after consolidation due to “leveling up” of salaries (i.e. paying all workers at the highest pay scale of the governments involved in a consolidation).”

According to Mayor Cavallaro, “Villages already maximize efficiencies by sharing equipment, engaging in consortium bidding for products and services, providing intermunicipal assistance.

“The Village of Westbury was incorporated in 1932 because the residents wanted to create a community with a local government that is responsive and accountable. That is why people move to incorporated villages - because they desire a particular lifestyle. When it comes to delivering services to residents in a manner that is efficient and cost-effective, no level of government can match a village.

“With all that is happening in our communities – loss of jobs and homes, and taxes going through the roof - it is time to send a strong message to Albany, including to our State Senator Craig Johnson and our State Assembly people, Rob Walker, Charles Levine and Thomas McKevitt legislators:  Westbury’s residents want them to actively oppose this legislation, and to start concentrating on the real issues – like making our state viable by lowering taxes and promoting economic growth.”