By Matt Youngfrau
MONTICELLO March 05, 2002 For the last few months, a great deal of talk has centered around the future of the Village of Monticello.
Will the village be dissolved? Will the village merge with the Town of Thompson to form a city?
Monticello Mayor Gary Sommers has been researching this issue for the past three months. He met with the NYS Department of State and NYS Department of Rural Development last week to discuss these issues and gather further information.
On Saturday, Sommers sat down with the Democrat to discuss his findings. He planned to present his findings to the Village Board at their meeting on Monday.
Both state departments had similar views on the subjects, according to Sommers.
Both agreed it would not be a good idea to dissolve the village village residents would not see any benefit for at least 10 to 15 years. According to Sommers, both of the state departments felt that Monticello should remain a village.
Creating a city would be very difficult, Sommers explained.
A city has not been created in New York State in more than 40 years. There are other deciding factors including rules that a new city would have to join with the other 42 cities in New York State that share revenue. The county would then lose some of its sales tax. But Sommers thinks there may be ways around that.
It gives us a window of opportunity to be creative, Sommers stated. It could be possible if we are willing to be creative. A study needs to be done.
If the village were to dissolve, the county would lose a percentage of their sales tax.
To make up for this, Sommers thinks they could add to the sales tax on cigarettes. Sommers reasons that it would only rise from 7 percent to 8 percent and that most cities charge that already.
Sommers went on to say that the other 42 cities would feel that a new city would cut into their revenue stream, but he has another creative solution for that problem. However, it would depend greatly on if and when casinos come in.
Instead of being in the pool, we could get a cut straight from the state revenue in their gambling agreement, Sommers explained. We can get 25 percent from the state. A study needs to be done. We are not sure what is doable.
At the earliest, it would take three and a half to four years to achieve city status. The earliest gambling will come in to the county is five years in the future.
As a way to make the proposal more attractive to the state, Sommers reasons, the city could perform some of the states functions such as enforcement and be sure they were following the agreement.
If the village were to dissolve, questions would arise on who would provide services to the 6,500 current village residents including water and sewer, snow removal and lighting. They would also still be responsible to pay off current contracts and retirements plans.
Sommers has what he and the two state departments think is a better solution cooperation. Sommers would like to see the village not only work closer with the town but the county as well. The entities could work together to share such things as equipment and expenses.
We can combine services, Sommers said. If contracts were bid out, we could beat private contractors. It would keep costs down. All contracts should be done that way.
We need to look at this like a business, Sommers continued. We need to do it. It doesnt make sense not to. We have some of the best minds in Sullivan County. We do not need to look outside the county.
Sommers would also like to see more of a balance between services offered by the village and those offered by the county.
Nothing is written in stone, he said. We need to look at all the possibilities. We need to do whatever will serve the taxpayers best.
Sommers was planning to ask at Mondays meeting for a study to be done on the proposal.
He was not sure if the board would allow that or not. That meeting took place after press time.