FORESTVILLE – After pushing through the thick fog that shrouded the hills of Route 39 on Wednesday morning, the downtown area of the Old Village came into focus near the bottom of Sheridan Hill. Six years ago, this sleepy hamlet was involved in a heated and controversial subject: should the government be dissolved?
Residents here in November 2016 voted for a second consecutive year to eliminate the village by a margin of 195-125 in what many who gathered in the village hall on the evening of November 8 considered the “best participation rate” for an election they had never seen. Some were disappointed. Others were saddened. A few left the building abruptly, realizing that the end was near.
But no one celebrated. There was a dose of pain that was going to exist regardless of the outcome.
Those who believed it was better to keep the village were most insulted by the result. The Last Village Mayor, Kevin Johnson, has been unfairly placed in the middle of it all.
When he took the helm, the village was short of money. According to the Chautauqua County Property Tax Office, from 2011 to 2016, Forestville’s taxes increased by 101.62%.
Most of these costs that were passed on to property owners were from the emergency demolition of a large downtown building and the emergency replacement of the Bennett State Road water main. Additionally, the village had to completely overhaul its water system – and with no money earmarked for it, the Environmental Facilities Corporation had to step in with a loan. Blurring the landscape further, in its last decade the village has been plagued by political turmoil and a lack of responsible accounting.
Paul Bishop, associate director of CGR Promising Solutions and project manager for the Forestville breakup, could see the writing on the wall regarding tax woes that were only going to get worse. “Sometimes the facts describe a compelling case,” Bishop said in 2016. “This is the case in Forestville; there are strong financial arguments for dissolution, with no major change in services (for residents). »
In the end, more villagers agreed with Bishop than those who disagreed. It’s one of the few cases in this county in decades where residents have said enough to bear high costs.
With votes on the school budget less than two weeks away and a number of villages already approving plans, the apology is in full force. Inflation spikes hurt us all, especially those on fixed incomes.
Our governments and our schools, however – all of whom have benefited in one way or another from American Rescue Plan Act funding over the past two years – still want taxpayers to pour more money into these plans. expenses. The reason? These rising costs are seen at the pump, in grocery stores and throughout the retail sector.
By dissolving its government in 2016, Forestville pays a layer of taxes less. The owners still support the county, its school and the city.
As for the landscape of the old village this week, it is evident that little has changed during the period of reduced government presence. In fact, the roads were still plowed and maintained while services once run by the village are now overseen by the city.
There is also a real positive that has emerged in this community — a strong segment of volunteers working to promote and improve the hamlet. Imagine Forestville, led by Aimee Rogers, has worked on several projects. Just last month, the group teamed up with high school students to clean up a hiking trail that will open to the public on July 9.
“We were lucky to have a very helpful and supportive Hannover City Council, without which this trail would never come to fruition”, Rogers recently stated in an OBSERVER article. “It was a community’s dream to get us this far, and we couldn’t be happier.”
The government, for all intents and purposes, is happy to move at a slow pace while retaining what it has, however ineffective. This is certainly the case with a large part of our local representation, which prides itself on its lack of achievements. Local volunteers, however, due to an investment of their own time, will get things done.
Forestville is a lesson for all small local entities hanging by a thread. Of course, it will be a little different without a tax entity. But it is not a doomsday scenario that pro-government supporters so often present as a scare tactic.
Despite the fog that surrounded the old village that morning, the sun rose again.
John D’Agostino is the editor of the OBSERVER, The Post-Journal and Times Observer in Warren, Pennsylvania. Send your comments to email@example.com or call 716-366-3000, ext. 253.