Village Abolishing The Office Of Village Justice
The Village Board at its July 8, 2019 Board Meeting passed a resolution by a unanimous vote to abolish the office of Village Justice Court effective at the end of the Justice’s current term ending April 1, 2020. As taxpayers and voters in the Village, you have the right through a permissive referendum if it is pressed to vote down this proposal or vote in favor of the board resolution. The board considered several factors and issues in its decision, they range from court safety, security, physical layout within the Village Hall and the courts impact on the taxes you pay.
Judges and court staff come into contact with litigants and members of the public – whether charged with violent crimes, drug offenses, and other serious infractions or with interest in sensitive family disputes or high stakes litigation under circumstances that inherently raise the prospect of courthouse violence. While our court has some security measures in place our court has no effective means to segregate detained defendants from the public, or segregate litigants from the judge: no secure locations anywhere in the facility and no mechanisms to separate alleged victims and perpetrators of domestic violence. Our court operates in a multipurpose room, by day free for anyone to enter. This in itself possesses security concerns. I’m not implying that this court should or can be setup like a county or town court, but the safety and security risk our court staff and the public face are just as real. The Village Board strongly urges the village court be abolished and forward all open cases to the Erwin Town Court which has separate judges chambers, separate clerk areas, storage areas, meeting area, prisoner area, court room and meeting areas for attorney and clients. The Erwin Court is far better able to handle any safety or security event. Every individual expects to be safe and secure in a municipal setting. The reason to need an under equipped and housed court in a village the size of Painted Post which has been without one for over 150 years and managed well in its absence is puzzling to me and overlooks the safety and security concerns of having a court in a common area
Our court has a small docket (number of cases), which are adjudicated each month, which can easily be handled by the Erwin Town Court. As a result the cost to the taxpayers to maintain the court far exceed the return on closed cases. Utilizing this years tax figures including court income and expenses, your tax rate per 1,000 dollars of assessed valuation was $12.215837 resulting in a tax increase of .13782 per 1,000 assessed valuation. Court net losses from operations amounted to $17,229. Net loss from operations means that the expenses exceeded the income. I recalculated the tax rate deducting the courts loss from operations and concluded that the new tax rate would have been $12.020230 per 1,000 a reduction of your taxes of .195607 cents per 1,000 of assessed property valuation. I made it my goal when I began doing budgets in 2012 to stay under the 2% tax cap. By doing so all property tax payers get a tax refund from NYS each year amounting to hundreds of dollars depending on the assessed valuation of your home. Abolishing the court will allow the village to redirect our assets to matters of greater importance. Purchases of major capital equipment for the DPW and Fire Department as well as needed improvements to Craig Park are being proposed for the next budget cycle. These purchases cannot be made without exceeding the tax cap resulting in higher taxes. Cuts to unnecessary services must be made.
Finally let me make it perfectly clear. The Police Department is entirely separate from the Justice Court. Closing the court will not impact the police departments continued commitment to serve and protect all residents of the Village of Painted Post.
We all have a stake in the decision to uphold the board’s vote to abolish the court. It should go without saying that the property tax payers will be impacted financially more than those residents that do not pay property tax.
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