Around three dozen mayors rallied together on Feb. 13 in Albany voicing their disapproval of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed plan to combine services of small towns and villages in hopes of decreasing local government spending. Geneseo Village Board members are concerned about the impact such a proposal would have on the village.
Village Board Trustee Mary Rutigliano believes that the underlying goal of this piece of legislation is to eliminate village governments entirely.
“I think perhaps the ultimate goal is to not have villages exist anymore,” Rutigliano said. “While this specific program doesn’t advocate for this, there is conversation going on locally, statewide and nationally on whether state towns need to exist or if they’re redundant.”
If the Village of Geneseo was abolished, Rutigliano said that the town’s government would have to expand and increase its scope, as currently “all of the town’s laws apply to the village, but the village’s laws don’t apply to the town.”
Village Mayor Richard Hatheway outlined multiple services that the Village of Geneseo currently shares with the Town of Geneseo, including a shared fire department, services through the Department of Public Works and shared water treatment plants. The village spends the most amount of its money in financing the Village of Geneseo Police Department, according to Hatheway.
The Town of Geneseo does not have its own police department and is instead covered by the sheriff’s office. As a result, Hatheway believes that the village would not save any more money if the village and town combined these services.
Hatheway said that it is important for the state to recognize that the Village of Geneseo Police Department does not receive funding from everyone in the village due to the significant number of on-campus students who do not pay village taxes.
“There are roughly 3,000 people in this village who are not paying taxes—the folks who live on campus—so there’s no income from any of that group that goes to property taxes from which the police department is paid,” Hatheway said. “I think that one thing the state could do is recognize the reason that we have the police department, and also help with the funding because there’s a significant number of residents who are not paying property taxes toward those resources.”
Hatheway is also concerned about how the distance between the Village of Geneseo and other villages would impact the sharing of municipal services if such plan was passed by the state.
“If you just look at sharing services with other villages, it’s not like we’re right next door. It’s 10 miles to Avon, 20 miles to Dansville and 6 or 8 miles to Mount Morris,” Hatheway said. “If you try to share fire trucks or something like that, it gets to be a real hassle in terms of jurisdiction. I do think people are trying to come up with ways to share things and, in our case, it ends up being sharing services with the Town of Geneseo.”
Hatheway believes that the state’s legislative body is overstepping its authority when demanding shared services between municipalities.
“Overall, I think we should share resources, and we are sharing services—we do it as much as we can,” Hatheway said. “But I don’t think the legislative body should be dictating what to do when they haven’t lived here to see what’s going on the first place.”
Assistant news editor Mike Powers contributed reporting to this article.