The logic of having one level of government, not two, involved in providing the same service to the same group of people could not be more clear than it is right now in the town of Busti and the village of Lakewood.
The Busti-Lakewood recreation center is administered through the town of Busti. The village of Lakewood, which is in the town of Busti, has for years appropriated a matching amount of money from its budget to run the center - both kick in $15,000.
But unknown to the Lakewood board until recently, the recreation program has run at a surplus. The Busti board has banked that money as a cushion in years when program fees and revenues from rental to outside groups lag and also toward the day when a new recreation building may be needed to replace the aging center.
Or so they say. Nothing really binds them to use the money for a capital expense, as we understand it. When the Village Board members found out that the surplus stands at $108,000, they decided to strike the $15,000 from next year's village budget unless they get a good explanation from the Town Board.
And as you have read in recent days, that decision predictably was followed by dire warnings from the recreation center's director that without the village subsidy, fees paid by groups to use the center will probably have to be increased.
It is such a shame the town and village are in a snit over this.
The Busti-Lakewood recreation center is a crown jewel for residents there. The building itself truly is a community center - residents go there to vote, to get flu shots, to deal with some pretty weighty public issues, to play cards, exercise, celebrate birthdays and weddings, to gather for a meal after a funeral. The Scouts, a garden club, a political party, study clubs, churches, - they all use it, either as a rented space or as an event sponsored by the town/village recreation program.
A total of 7,760 people live in the town of Busti - 3,258 within the Lakewood village limits and 4,502 in the rest of the town. The Village Board levies a property tax on the residents within its jurisdiction to pay its share of the recreation center and the town does the same thing on the residents living outside the village.
Why not simply have everyone pay equally toward the total $30,000 by having the town include the amount in the property tax it levies on the entire jurisdiction? Property owners throughout the entire town, including those in the village, would pay for the recreation center at the same tax rate.
The village could eliminate the line item in its budget and the stability of this wonderful community asset would be assured.
Why can't that be an easy solution?