Penn Yan to study city idea

Gwen Chamberlain

The Penn Yan Village Board will be seeking proposals to study the issues — pro and con — connected with the village becoming a city.

Mayor Douglas Marchionda Jr. said after all the research he’s done so far, “Cities fare much better (than villages) as far as revenue goes.”

He later added, “If it’s good financially for the residents, then we, as a government, should pursue it.”

Marchionda says the most evident differences he’s found after reviewing a report from the New York Conference of Mayors are that the city court judge must be an attorney, and city court operations are subsidized by New York State.  He said the report also indicates a city needs to take over responsibility for property assessments. Currently, the village uses property assessments prepared by the towns of Milo, Benton and Jerusalem.

“My opinion is we need to move very thoroughly, but I think we need to absolutely know what affect that would have on the citizens,” he said.

Trustees discussed an effort already underway to have discussions with county officials, beginning with the county legislature’s finance committee, about financial issues, including sharing of sales tax revenues with the village.

Yates County is one of the few counties in the state that does not share sales tax revenue with villages and towns inside its borders.

Over the past few months, Penn Yan Village officials have been vocal about the increasing amount of tax-exempt property inside the village as the county, school and other non-profit organizations expand.

Trustee Bob Church, chairman of the village’s finance committee, says Penn Yan is often compared to Bath, because of similarities in size and municipal services. But one major difference is that Bath receives more than $650,000 annually from Steuben County in shared sales tax revenue. Penn Yan receives no sales tax revenue.

Church also pointed out that this year, after several years of requests from the village, Yates County allocated $20,000 to help fund recreation programs. He said he hopes the county continues to provide that support because most of the people who use Red Jacket and Indian Pines parks and the Keuka Street Boat Launch come from outside the village.

Trustee Robert Hoban said he agrees with the mayor’s plan, and he thinks the village authorities need to approach the county in a cooperative way. “Our citizens are also their citizens,” he said, adding he believes the discussions with county officials need to be broader, including other issues, such as the waterfront development and police investigation duties.

Trustee Richard Stewart said he’s been in touch with officials in Wellsville, where the same issue has been studied, and he has also acquired a report from Cornell University.

At the end of the discussion, the board unanimously agreed to request proposals for a study.

Trustee Michael D’Abbracci was absent.