Letting a village administer and vote on its own demise is like asking the kids to decide whether their parents should get divorced.

They’re going to stick with what’s familiar, what’s safe and what’s known. With rare exceptions, village residents are always going to support keeping the village intact, no matter how inefficient, expensive or outdated the might be.

If the state is serious about reducing the number of redundant governments and improving efficiency at the local level, it’s going to have to come up with a far more objective method than letting the affected community directly vote on it.

New York has 556 separate villages, ranging in population from 54,045 in the village of Hempstead to 14 in the village of Dering Harbor, both on Long Island. That’s in addition to 994 towns and cities, 62 counties and one big fat state government. And let’s not forget the 730 school districts, some with only a few dozen students.

Most of these governments are completely unnecessary and could be served more efficiently and effectively by a surrounding township. Yet the process for dissolving the villages and other small government entities like school districts is skewed heavily in favor of the status quo and heavily against change.

Under the current system, the communities and school districts being considered for dissolution are awarded money to study the concept, money that the affected governments control.

Their boards hire the dissolution consultants, whose first obligation is to serve the boards that hire them.

The affected boards hold the hearings, exclusive of the surrounding towns or school districts. They publish the literature. They control the meetings. They control the messages. They even write the ballot propositions.

In the case of the recently failed proposition in Schuylerville, the ballot language included a phrase very clearly implying that dissolving the village would mean residents would give up fire protection.

It was completely untrue. But it got into the language of the proposition because village officials who opposed dissolution had the final say over it.

Practicality, not emotion, need to be the deciding factor such decisions. One resident of Schuylerville said he voted against dissolution because he wanted to continue to honor the Revolutionary War general for whom the village is named. Really? That’s the kind of emotionally skewed reasoning that residents use to keep their villages and school districts, and another reason why the odds are stacked so much against dissolution.

One might argue that it should be up to the affected residents to decide what kind of government they should have. Why? There’s no constitutional requirement for villages. And we already have working flow chart for governance — federal, state, county, town, city/village. How much more government do we need? If smaller is better, why not assign a government to each city block or neighborhood?

If the state suddenly decided to eliminate all 556 villages, what exactly would be lost? Residents would still have representation on the town level, so there’d be no taxation without representation. Services currently provided by the village would continue under the town in most cases. Residents still need their roads plowed and their fires put out. Village residents could still keep their local identities.

Gen. Schuyler could still have his name on parks and buildings in Schuylerville, and even on the road sign identifying the hamlet. Just not on government stationery.

Do we seriously need a separate town and village of Argyle? A town and village of Fort Edward? A town and village of Lake George? Of Moreau and South Glens Falls? Are those villages so ungovernable as to require a separate government from the surrounding towns?

The same thing goes for schools. It makes absolutely no sense, for instance, that the Abraham Wing elementary school is its own separate school district when it could easily incorporate into the Glens Falls City School District without giving up its identity, its building or programs.

Small adjacent school districts like Hudson Falls, Fort Ann, Fort Edward and Argyle could have one administration instead of four and still provide a sound education.

Yet parochialism always wins out.

The only thing that fundamentally changes with dissolution of a government is that there ends up being less of it.

Yet despite the clear need to reduce the size of New York’s government in order to reduce taxes and inefficiency, the process for dissolving villages and school districts is expensive, time-consuming and in most cases, futile.

A better process might be for the Legislature to pass a bill calling for the elimination of any government entity with less than, say, 5,000 people, or of any school district with fewer than 250 students.

If the communities and districts don’t want to do it, then cut off state funding until they do. Give them a few years to work out the transfer of assets, then cut them loose.

The current system for dissolution doesn’t work. Villages and school districts do not like planning their own funerals.

If state lawmakers are serious about reducing the size of government, they’ll have to take charge and come up with a better way.

Local editorials represent the opinion of The Post-Star editorial board, which consists of Publisher Rick Emanuel, Editor Ken Tingley, Editorial Page Editor Mark Mahoney and citizen representative Mike Wild.

(7) comments

k
k

Well, I suppose you're trying to come out in favor of "smaller government" with this editorial. But is it really smaller when you remove local control and dictate from afar, such as the state level as you prescribe? Sounds Tea Party-ish to me, and that's not good. It's like, can't get your way through democracy? Well, to hell with it then. Let's just dictate. Nooo thank you, Mr. Editors.

schirmer
schirmer

I take from this editorial that the Post Star supports the right of a free people to determine how they shall be governed EXCEPT when the outcome of such election runs counter to the result desired by the Post Star.

Jsullivan
Jsullivan

I believe the system is flawed and the Post-Star Editors are correct. Besides how many people like to plan their own funerals, right on if you ask me. It is the proverbial fox watching the hen house with no system of checks and balances. I think the Post-Star Editors are trying to point out the fact that people were gravely mislead as they did point out with the exit interview. I have spoken to people in the last few days in the Village of Schuylerville and I am appalled at what I hear come out of people's mouth's. People did not get the facts and this is true. Fact 1: Schuylerville would not have lost its identity, it would still be Schuylerville even those in the Town of Saratoga that have OH NO, Schuylerville mailing addresses! Fact 2: The Village of Schuylerville would still have Fire Protection Fact 3: The Village of Schuylerville would still have the streets plowed. Fact 4: Youth leave this area because of high taxes and due to the facts not being weighed properly.

tg504
tg504

Amen..c'mon Post-Star..i have read your rag since i have been 13-and i am 55 now-but this is endangering that,,why are you imposing your will on these villages that are buying your rag..we have voted -we have spoken-leave us alone,,or i might leave your rag alone and grab another at the newsstand tommorow..

Postid
Postid

Interesting position --

The PEOPLE may take a parochial position when deciding their fate. Then again perhaps they should. The further from local control a government develops the more likely it will become aloof from the needs of a community.

While I will not argue with the need to combine services it should not be necessary to do that at the cost of small government units that are more easily controlled - *with some minimal effort) - by the voice of the majority within the community.

To impose a "solution" on the community against the will of the VAST majority from afar by State fiat is hardly a solution. Rather, it smacks of elitism.

May as well come right out and say it. The Post Star evidently believes that they know best and in the interest of the common good as the Post Star Editorial Board views it the imposition of a solution against the will of the voter is acceptable and even desired. After all, the commoners were given a chance to make a correct decision, and failed.

ADK CURMUDGEON
ADK CURMUDGEON

I've been following the Dissolution Studies and subsequent voting in several communities across the State. If you speak to the consultants and/or people attending the meetings they'll tell you that the voting usually falls in lock step as to whether the Village administration was or wasn't in favor of the dissolution....what does that tell you. This issue is so much more than just saving money...it has to do with communities being pro active. It has to do with small communities making a conscious decision that they don't need more layers of government than necessary. Village government was important back in the day but is not necessary today....how much government do people need or want....as much as they're willing to pay for and that's a lot. When the State money spicket turns off and communities go into crisis mode, Villages will disappear. It's the only way things change; when there is a crisis. Yes, the system is very flawed but, it won't be fixed anytime soon.

I agree with JSullivan and ADK Curmudgeon - it's not all about saving money, it's about removing a layor of government that even NYS says is an outdated form of government. I hope residents in the Village of Schuylerville don't regret their decision to keep the "government" functioning with what they do best and that is spend taxpayer money in ways I am not sure anyone is paying attention to. All I have read is that Village residents have a voice and control with Village Elected Officials. I would challenge anyone who voted no to start asking the Village Board for help and see how they respond to your requests and please post how successful you all were.

Welcome to the discussion.

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