Consolidating services may be logical first step

The village of Washingtonville is facing some serious financial problems. Voters have repeatedly turned down levy requests and they recently repealed an income tax increase.

Now, the water tower is in need of costly repairs and the village will be hard-pressed to find the revenue to fix or replace it.

The village is also having difficulty retaining police personnel because of the low wages the town is able to pay.

What were once full-service towns providing many of the amenities of a larger city, are falling upon hard times and find they cannot keep up with what they used to offer.

The problem here, as it is with many small towns, is an eroding tax base. Many homes have fallen in to disrepair and have been demolished, and there is not much in the way of commercial or industrial development. The result is not as many properties to levy real estate taxes on and millage must be increased to yield the same amount of money, requiring more money from the property owners who remain.

Washingtonville regularly finishes first or second in the county in terms of the most expensive places to live when it comes to its property tax burden on residents. The owner of a $100,000 home in the village will pay $1,700 in property taxes this year, the highest in the county, according to a survey by this newspaper.

And there are fewer people to pay income taxes. The population is aging and income taxes are not levied on Social Security benefits and pensions, leaving younger people to try to foot the bill for everything.

Washingtonville is not the only small village struggling to keep its head above water. The village of Wellsville appears it will soon emerge from fiscal emergency, but this wasn’t that village’s first time being placed under state financial control and unless it adheres to a stringent spending plan, it could find itself in trouble again.

Rogers is another town with its share of financial woes. Officials there talked of dissolving into Middleton Township several years ago when finances and prospects of getting anyone to participate in village government appeared bleak.

Washingtonville officials are discussing the drastic measure of merging with Leetonia, if Leetonia is interested in absorbing the village. Talks have just begun so its difficult to know where that will conclude.

Drastic times require drastic measures. While merging or dissolving these small towns may not sit well with many of their residents, someone must come up with a permanent solution for these financial problems.

More consolidation of services between nearby villages might be a way to spread some of the cost around while maintaining quality of life amenities. Perhaps these neighboring towns should take their talks in that direction.

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