The Community of Seneca Falls – A Village Dissolution Success Story

 

 

Beginning in 2006, the Village of Seneca Falls in Seneca County, New York, had been searching for a more efficient, cost effective means of governing the community. Given an increasing tax burden, and aging population, facilities, and infrastructure.  The Village was also looking for a more direct way to share revenue from the Seneca Meadows Landfill.  The Village Board and its residents examined dissolution and prepared a Dissolution Plan, funded by the New York Department of State under the Local Government Efficiency Grant program.  The Plan examined the effects of dissolution, explored potential alternatives, and suggested a basic framework that could be used for transitioning Village functions to the Town in the event dissolution was the ultimate outcome of the formal process.  

 

Incorporated in 1837, Seneca Falls has a rich identity as the birthplace of the Women’s Suffrage movement and the model for the fabled town of Bedford Falls in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” In a 2010 vote, Seneca Falls became the largest New York village ever to approve dissolution, effective December 31, 2011, forming of the Community of Seneca Falls.

 

The Town Board of Seneca Falls subsequently inherited the responsibility to develop and implement a plan to provide the essential municipal services that were formerly provided and administered by the village.  A team was hired lead by B&L and including financial and legal consultants to assist the town with a Transition Plan to guide the community with this complex task. Six basic areas were transitioned from the village to the town:— 

 

  • Water and Sewer
  • DPW (streets, parks, refuse collection, buildings and grounds)
  • Planning and Zoning
  • Fire Protection
  • Police
  • Human Resources
 

 

 

 

 

The Village’s dissolution gave the Community of Seneca Falls the rare opportunity to take a fresh look at service delivery and examine the operations from a business point of view. The efforts have included development and implementation of a Transition Plan detailing the steps necessary to successfully integrate and deliver former Village services to the community without interruption.  Some of the important elements of the Transition Plan included:

 

  • Development of a comprehensive Asset Management Plan
  • A programmatic review and assessment of Town Operations
  • An Environmental and Compliance Audit
  • A water and sewer rate study
  • A code review

The process allowed the Town to identify potential efficiency improvements in trash collection, plowing and street maintenance, and fire and police departments,  The Town is completing the first three years of operation as a consolidated entity and has demonstrated that elimination of a government layer can result in a more cost effective, efficient delivery of services for a community, not to mention a 48% reduction in property taxes for village property owners. While services to the community transitioned smoothly, the process allowed the Town to take a hard look at what it was inheriting, identify inefficiencies, and make a calculated plan for the future, all in response to the needs and wishes of the entire Community of Seneca Falls.