After more than five hours of heated debate, village and town officials in New Paltz came to a conclusion on consolidation — they will ask Albany for special legislation. New Paltz will seek a special home rule law from the State of New York, allowing them to let town voters and village voters to cast a ballot — if and when a referendum calling for the merger of the two municipalities is held.
The two easiest ways to unify the two local governments — annexation of the town or the dissolution of the village — would disenfranchise one group of voters over the other. If the village annexed the town, only town residents outside the village could vote. If dissolution were put up again, only villagers could vote.
Villagers right now can vote in Town of New Paltz elections, since they’re also residents of the town. Townies, however, can’t vote in village elections. A majority of the Town Board and Village Board agreed to ask for legislation to make a consolidation vote a townwide election.
“We know that there are two routes to consolidation. Each one excludes one-half of our population. So for four years now, we have been working on a plan that would enable everybody in our community to vote,” explained Kitty Brown, a Town Board member.
Brown said she thought it’d behoove New Paltz to work towards consolidation — even if Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, D-Kingston, and state Sen. John Bonacic, R-Mount Hope, don’t feel warm and fuzzy about their proposed law.
“If our assemblyman and state senator say, ‘This is the most beautiful piece of legislation we’ve ever seen. We would be proud to bring it to the floor,’ then we have Option A. If they say, ‘We don’t understand this. Go away. We won’t carry it,’ we still have the route of annexation, we still have the route of dissolution, we still have the route of shared services,” Brown said.
Since 2009, New Paltz has been studying ways to either share services or merge the village and town governments. In April, the village and town hired the Rochester-based Center for Governmental Research (CGR) for $64,100 to develop a plan for a “coterminous” townwide village. Such a government would expand the Village Board out to the town boundaries, but would run with a unified Village Board.