KEESEVILLE — Almost 50 people crowded into the Keeseville Fire Station Wednesday night to hear that dissolving their village won’t be as beneficial for some as previously thought.
The Keeseville Village Board is expected to set a dissolution vote for sometime in February 2013, a referendum mandated by a valid petition recently turned in by a village resident.
The meeting was led by consultant Tim Weidemann, who told residents that those with a home assessed at $70,000 or more will still see a tax savings from dissolving the Village of Keeseville, but those with lower assessments might see an increase in what they pay.
The final draft of the dissolution study, released at the session, says some village property owners with low assessments, high water and sewer use and who use more than two trash stickers weekly would pay more after dissolution.
Weidemann’s Kingston-based Rondout Consulting has been preparing the dissolution plan for the Village Dissolution Study Committee, and the final version shows that when special-district taxes and fees replace village property taxes, there could, for example, be a $166 increase for someone with an assessment of around $30,000.
“In Keeseville, costs of sewer, water and garbage come into play, and some residents might see an increase,” Weidemann said. “There are situations for some residents where there could be increases in costs.”
Following dissolution, the towns of Chesterfield in Essex County and AuSable in Clinton County would take over village services like water and sewer utilities, and private haulers would have to be hired by residents to pick up trash that the Village Department of Public Works gathers now.
“This is not a trivial thing,” Weidemann said. “If you have a house assessed at a relatively low value, your savings (from dissolution) are small. People with low assessed value and high use of village services could see a flip, meaning, in total, there’s an increased cost.”
Where there would be a savings is for someone with a home assessed at $100,000, the report says.
For the AuSable part of the village, taxpayers pay $2,375 a year now in taxes and fees on a $100,000 property. After dissolution, they would pay $2,032 without state dissolution aid and $1,931 with it.
On the Chesterfield side of the village, residents with homes assessed at $100,000 pay $2,173 now and would pay $1,791 without the aid and $1,714 with it.
“Is that (state aid) a mandate? Can we 100 percent depend on it?” village resident Stanley M. Smith asked. “Or could it change every year?”
It is not a mandate for the state to pay dissolution aid, Weidemann told him. It must be included in the state budget every year to continue.
Smith also pointed out that the dissolution plan was only a recommendation to Chesterfield and AuSable.
“The plan is not a binding mandate,” Smith said.
“The plan itself does not bind the towns to do that (particular plan),” Weidemann agreed.
The Village of Keeseville Dissolution Study Committee is endorsing Option 3 in the plan, which seems like the best one, Weidemann said.
Option 3 would eliminate redundant services, like elections and the Department of Public Works, and residents would have to hire private haulers for trash removal.
“(This is) trying to reduce the tax burden on village residents without gutting services,” Weidemann said.
“Property taxes will decrease if the village dissolves, some services go away, some services are spread over the entire tax base.”
He said the new sewer and water districts would have their own tax rates. The village is already part of the AuSable-Chesterfield-Keeseville Joint Fire District, which sets its own tax levy.
Chesterfield would take the water system, AuSable the sewer system, Weidemann said.
“Who would set the water and sewer rates?” village resident Lola Lopez asked. “We have meters now. Would the meters still be there?”
Weidemann said the town councils for Chesterfield and AuSable would set the rates, and the meters would still be used.
Town costs would not increase for taking on the services, he said, since residents would be billed according to their usage.
“If the village dissolves, all staff positions would be eliminated,” Weidemann said. “There would be new positions for AuSable and Chesterfield” to operate water and sewer systems.
Thirteen village jobs would be eliminated, and eight new ones created by the towns. Village employees would probably be given first preference for those new jobs, the consultant said.
The Village Board will next vote on whether to accept the plan and set public hearings before its adoption. The board already has a special meeting scheduled for 8 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 25, to vote to hold a public referendum on dissolution.
“There has been a valid petition for a referendum on dissolution,” Weidemann said. “That means the Village Board is required to hold a referendum on dissolution.”
The village certified the petition turned in by resident Nancy Booth, verifying 119 of its 122 signatures as valid. The petition needed a minimum of 109 signatures, 10 percent of village registered voters.
If voters OK dissolution after the vote, which Weidemann said will probably be held in late February 2013, the Village Board must then meet within 30 days and adopt a dissolution plan, presumably the plan now being worked on.
The plan is subject to a permissive referendum that can also be petitioned to a vote, Weidemann said.
“There are potentially two votes. Residents can petition for a vote on the plan. If that vote is no, there is no dissolution. If they say yes, then dissolution continues per the plan.”
Email Lohr McKinstry: