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Lake George to consider dissolving village

The Lake George village office
Lucas Willard
The Lake George village office

Next week, the Village and Town of Lake George will take initial steps toward the possible dissolution of the village.

The Village of Lake George on the southern end of the lake, with a population of fewer than 1,000 year-round residents, is surrounded by the larger town, with a population over 3,000 according to census figures.

But as New York has incentivized local governments to consolidate, the village will again consider dissolution.

Village Mayor Bob Blais…

“The village has studied the questions three times in the past, it has never been put to a vote. This time the village board has passed a resolution requiring that the matter be put to a vote at the end of the study, and will begin the study sometime hopefully, in May, or perhaps as early as April, and hopefully have an election or a vote sometime this fall.”

The village and the town share a number of services. Their respective offices even share the same parking lot.

“Our offices are next to each other. But we also share the fire department, the rescue squad, the courts, we share the sewage treatment plant, we share the collection systems, we share code enforcement, we share Planning Officers, we share it almost every service that you can name in the village in the town with the exception of the highway and street departments, we share the services together,” said Blais.

On Monday, the Village and Town of Lake George will come together for a special meeting, where interviews will be held for firms interested in studying the dissolution of the village.

Blais has been mayor of the village for 50 years. That’s something that Lake George Town Supervisor Dennis Dickinson has thought about during previous dissolution discussions.

“And it's always been a concern of mine because the mayor is such a dynamic person and has been there so long as it would be difficult for anyone, even experienced person to pick up the reins and continue on with the village,” said Dickinson.

There’s also a financial concern. Dickinson is worried about a potential hit to town taxpayers.

“The mayor has been very progressive and done a lot of great things for the area. It's money well spent, but it still needs to be paid back. So the taxpayers in the town, bluntly, don't want to have to take any of that burden. They had no input or decision into spending the money and they don't want to be burdened with paying it off.”

In a dissolution study conducted in 2009, town taxpayers faced a potential 8 or 9 percent increase. But today, New York state has tools in place to ease the burden on municipalities seeking to consolidate.

Dan Barusch is the Zoning and Planning Director for both the Town and Village of Lake George. He says by law, the town residents would not assume the burden of village debt.

“So essentially, how that will have to work is a special district would be created and compassing, the exact boundary of the old village. And that would be essentially a debt service that gets paid out over the years by the special district taxpayers, which are the same as the old village taxpayers. Now, there's ways to there's ways to make that work smoothly. In some cases, there is an increase to the town taxpayers, but the state has done an excellent job over the past handful of years trying to ameliorate that, that being the potential increase the tax burden on the town, and the way they've done that is the Citizen Enhancement Tax Credit.”

Under the tax credit’s formula, Barusch says the state could pay the town around a half-million dollars annually, effectively nullifying the impact on town taxpayers. The other concern, Barusch says, is what would happen to village residents once the tax base is absorbed into the town. He’s looked at that too.

“Are they going to basically shoulder all of the burden in terms of cost? And the answer is yes and no, no, in that. There will be savings and efficiencies had so their tax rate will drop But yes, in that they, by law, have to keep their debt and pay it off. Now, I've already mentioned to numerous people, including the village board, there's a really easy solution to that potential burden, however long it may be, where they have to pay off all their existing debt. That solution that I have in mind is another special district, again, encompassing the boundaries of the village where they collect all of the parking revenue. That is, is essentially, it’s all revenue in the village right now, the parking revenue. And they can create a special district for parking. And all the money raised each year from parking can be used to offset the existing debt service burden that they're going to have.”

Monday’s joint meeting with the Town and Village of Lake George is set to begin at 8:45 a.m. at the Holiday Inn on Route 9 in Lake George.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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