PORT CHESTER, N.Y. -- With pension and healthcare costs rising and the village possibly facing budget deficits in coming years, Port Chester officials may consider incorporating the village into a city.
The village has tried several times in the past to become a city, each time unsuccessfully. The issue was brought up again at the last Board of Trustees meeting on Wednesday. During the public comment portion of the meeting, residents Goldie Solomon and Frank Ferrara both requested that the board explore the idea of city status in order to increase revenues.
Cities are not defined under New York State law by population, density or geographical size. The main difference between a village and a city is that a city is governed by a charter, while most villages operate under uniform statewide village law. Port Chester is one of 12 villages in the state that still operates under its own charter. If Port Chester wanted to become a city, the Board of Trustees would need to submit a revised charter to the County Board of Legislators. If approved, it would be sent to the state legislature for approval and to the governor to be signed.
Cities can impose a sales tax and generally receive more money in state aid than villages do. In 2012 Port Chester received $4 million from the state in sales tax revenue. Ferrara said that he calculated that if Port Chester were a city, it would receive an additional $5 million in sales tax revenue. While he admitted those figures were based on 2007 retail sales figures, he said the option was still worth exploring.
"Let's get a committee together, let's march to Albany, let's threaten, let's rattle our saber a little bit, let's get this done," Ferrara said. "The longer we sit tied to the train tracks and let that train barrel down on us, the worse it's going to be."
With village officials planning to meet this winter to discuss strategies on how to avoid deficits in the budget, Mayor Neil Pagano said that city status is one option that could be on the table.
"As impossible as trying to make the moves to Albany and get city status is, $5 million does get your attention, and if we're leaving that kind of money, I think it is worth it," Pagano said. "Maybe it's not going to go away again. Maybe this time it has to be revisited."
Trustee Dan Brakewood said that he thinks the idea is worth exploring. He said that there are several other municipalities that are also trying to achieve city status.
"We're not alone in this boat," he said. He said that one option could be to join together with these other municipalities and file a lawsuit to let them change their status.
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