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Highland Falls The Latest New York Village To Attempt To Give Up Independence, Have Local Town Government Run Things

HIGHLAND FALLS, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- As the long Independence Day weekend winds down, it's democracy in action in suburban Orange County.

Residents are petitioning to dissolve their village, eliminating an entire layer of local government, CBS2's Tony Aiello reported Monday.

The village of Highland Falls was decked out in red, white and blue for the Fourth of July. It's an interesting time for residents to give up a measure of their independence and fold operations into the surrounding town of Highlands.

Residents have submitted enough petitions to start the process to hold a referendum.

"We, the people, decided we'd step up and make a difference," Highland Falls resident Kathy Dagaev said.

For Dagaev, it's mostly about money. She said tax bills are about $1,400 higher in the village than in the town. She and others believe a community of 6,000 people doesn't need two police departments and two Department of Public Works, for example.

"Two sewer departments, two water departments. The bottom line is to merge these two. One government, one community," Dagaev said.

Village Mayor Joe D'Onofrio told Aiello he's got a bunch of material on his desk to go through before taking a stand on this proposal, which would eliminate his elected position.

FLASHBACKStories From Main Street: Rye Town Supervisor Fights To Dissolve Town

In the last 10 years, residents in 20 New York villages have voted for dissolution. Most recently, South Nyack in Rockland County.

One expert said the savings aren't always what supporters anticipate.

"There are savings to be had from not having a town hall and a village hall, but there are certain services that towns are going to have to pick up, and not necessarily be able to absorb that within the existing tax bill," said Ken Girardin of the Yankee Institute.

And, of course, dissolving the village won't affect the biggest portion of the tax bill -- local schools.

With petitions filed, a process now starts to determine the future of the village 115 years after it was founded.

Opponents are worried 911 and other services will be diminished if the village is dissolved. A consultant specializing in dissolution debates will help guide the process in Highland Falls.

Editor's note: This story was originally published on Monday, July 5.


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