Forestville: Past decisions haunt present

Disappointing? Yes, to be sure.

Troubling? Most definitely, especially for those on a limited income.

Unexpected? Absolutely not.

An unprecedented tax increase is on the table in the floundering village of Forestville. Property owners could see their current rate of $5.13 per $1,000 of assessed valuation increase to $27.97 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, according to a budget proposal presented last week. That equates to a 445 percent hike.

In other words, a person with a home assessed at $100,000 would go from paying $513 in taxes to $2,797 in just village taxes alone. That does not take into account additional town, county or school taxes, which also are expected to rise.

Let’s get one thing straight about this mess: it has nothing to do with the current – and incoming -Village Board. What these community members found in taking office over the last 13 months was a mess.

Incomplete paperwork. Funds mismanaged. Grants not followed through on. And don’t forget those nifty 20 percent pay raises for its workers some four years ago.

The usual suspects in this debacle include a former village clerk, a former village attorney – who collected hundreds of thousands of dollars for leaving Forestville on the brink of bankruptcy, as well as previous village administrations and board members.

Mayor-elect Kevin Johnson does not have much choice on the matter. Money that was borrowed within the past five years must be paid to the banks – immediately. Funds for a water district are needed and a roof needs to be fixed at the fire hall.

“If this proposed budget is adopted as it stands, combined with the school, town and county taxes, Forestville will most likely have the highest property tax in New York state and one of the highest in the nation,” Johnson said.

Just what this region did not need – another black eye on taxes.

This goes back to why questionable small fiefdoms, really not needed or capable of running efficiently, continue to exist. Think how much better off the residents of Forestville would be if the village had dissolved years ago.

It would not be some 700 residents being held responsible for poor decisions by a small group. Instead, a town of more than 7,000 would be overseeing and managing those issues.

Today, however, the village still exists. As does the previous poor decisions that led to a huge debtload.

In business, a closure would be looming. In government – and especially in Chautauqua County – the cost gets passed on to the decreasing number of property owners with the shrug of a shoulder.

Problem is, since population keeps declining, fewer shoulders are being shrugged.