Skoufis bill would expand rules to form new villages (updated)

A new bill by state Sen. James Skoufis would raise the threshold and add new requirements for incorporating new villages in New York, a consequential step that can be done with little more than 500 inhabitants and a vote by the adults in that area under state law.

A proposal introduced last week by the Cornwall Democrat would lift the minimum population to 2,500 and remove a provision enabling the owners of at least 50 percent of the property value to petition for the new village. Striking that language leaves only one path to a legal petition: by getting at least 20 percent of the area’s voters to sign it.

Skoufis’ bill also would require petitioners to submit a proposed operating budget and capital plan for the municipality they’re seeking to create; a description of the municipal services their village would provide and how it would do so; and five years of property-tax projections for both the proposed village and the rest of the town in which it’s formed.

The state comptroller would review those documents to certify the “financial feasibility” of the proposed village, and could reject the petition if the village would pose an “undue burden.”

Skoufis and several other lawmakers in the Senate and Assembly had made various other proposals last year to raise the low bar for forming a village, none of which made it into law. In Skoufis’ case, the impetus was the push to establish a 1.9-square-mile village in northern Monroe that had only about 600 inhabitants. That petition for the Village of Seven Springs is still pending, awaiting appeals-court rulings in two separate lawsuits.

If approved by the Legislature and signed into law, the Skoufis bill would apply to Seven Springs and any other village petitions that haven’t advanced to a referendum when the law takes effect.

Update:

In a statement, Skoufis argued that tightening the petition standards and having the comptroller review the fiscal impact of proposed village would bring “more fairness and independence in a process that has long-needed reformation.”

“Voters deserve to make an informed decision that best reflects the future of their community, and I’m determined to help give them that voice,”  he said.

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