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Consolidation Grant Opportunity for County Considers Dissolving Fulton

FULTON, NY – The Fulton Common Council held the first regular meeting of 2017 on Tuesday (Jan 3) but before getting to official business, County Legislator Frank Castiglia Jr, D-Fulton, approached the council to address the opportunity for a county wide grant potentially involving Fulton’s cooperation to consider dissolving the city.

While Mayor Woodward has been aware of the grant opportunity, Castiglia addressed his opinion and presented information from the NYS Department of State to the council members.

The Municipal Consolidation and Efficiency Competition, MCEC, “is a program designed to support counties and other local governments to pursue opportunities for consolidation, shared services, and local government modernizations that reduce the property tax burden,” according to an informational packet from the Department of State that Castiglia provided to the council.

The packet continued to explain that each local government that wishes to apply will be required to develop a Municipal Consolidation and Efficiency Plan, MCEP with funding available to do so.

Ultimately, the plan showing the “most innovative thinking in regards to governmental consolidation and property tax reduction” will have the opportunity to follow up on approximately $20 million in grant money to apply the strategies of the plan.

Castiglia addressed the grant from a county wide standpoint, however noted that a “key factor” of the competition is that one municipality from the county must be willing to look at dissolving, suggesting Fulton consider the option as he has been pursuing for a year.

The information from Department of State said directly, “at least one County, City, Town or Village consolidation must be proposed in the Intent to Propose.”

Castiglia explained that the procedures of the grant could allow the City of Fulton to conduct a feasibility study focused on the option to dissolve the city at no cost of their own.

“The study would be paid for by state taxes,” he said, just to determine if the option is feasible. “If it is feasible, it would go to the general public (for vote.) If it’s not, then we haven’t lost a dime.”

He continued to explain that if the municipality decided it was in their best interest to dissolve, some of the $20 million award money “could and should be earmarked to pay off debt of the municipality.”

However, city clerk/chamberlain Daniel O’Brien noted that not all debt of a municipality can simply be paid off as there are often strict time lines to repayment.

“I personally don’t believe it could work,” Mayor Woodward announced, but agreed to follow through with the grant opportunity should the council want to move forward.

He then questioned whether the city would dissolve into a town or village, or if the county would take over, citing many questions that remain unanswered.

He continued to note that as a city, Fulton receives over $1 million in state aid whereas a village would receive substantially less.

Castiglia told Woodward that the feasibility study would answer all these unknown questions.

While Castiglia has been actively in pursuit of looking into the opportunity to dissolve the city of Fulton for only a year, he has thought about the possibilities for the past five years.

“I have been hearing people say things like, ‘last one out of the city turn off the lights,’ ‘close the doors it’s all over,’ ‘welcome to the city of Fulton, the city with no future.’ I was tired of all that talk and I asked myself, what can I do to help save what is left of my city?” he said.

And with that, Castiglia said he begin looking into the city’s financial situation and what it would mean to look into the option to dissolve.

Looking at things like bond debt and public safety costs, Castiglia began to weigh the measures of dissolving.

“The city is bonding items like police cars, garbage trucks, plows, four wheel drive trucks, etc. All those items should be paid for out of a general fund. The city isn’t able to do that. The city receives over $6,000,000 in sales tax revenue from the county. At least half or three-quarters of that should be going into the general fund and it’s not. It is being used to pay the bills,” he explained.

“All of the fine work by our great civil groups will not pay these bills. They will make it a very nice place to live but the taxes will still be too high for the average person to own a home here. I feel we owe it to these groups to see what, if anything, we can do to compliment their hard work and dedication to our city,” Castiglia continued.

Ultimately, Woodward said the city will likely provide a letter to support the study to determine if there are any possible benefits to dissolving.

“I’m not in favor of it, I don’t believe it will change things. I think the end result would be reduction in the lifestyle of city residents but that’s only my opinion. To be fair and to put it to bed, the study should be done. There’s a lot of questions that haven’t been answered,” Woodward said.

Castiglia emphasized that the study will not determine the outcome, that fate rests only in the hands of the public.

“It wouldn’t cost the city anything to look. One has to remember that the voters will have the final say as to whether or not the city is to dissolve. That is the way it should be,” he said.

Director of Oswego County Department of Community Development, Tourism and Planning David Turner has confirmed that Oswego County is addressing the opportunity to move forward with the MCEC.

“We are exploring the opportunity to move forward with the application,” he said. “As stipulated, you must have one proposed dissolution, two communities proposing to consolidate. As of right now, I do not have a commitment for that,” Turner said.

However, a series of meetings next week gives Turner hope that at least two will result in the commitment to look into the study.

Even if the city of Fulton were expressly interested in exploring the option to dissolve, there requires a commitment from another entity to pursue the grant, he said.

“Just because a city may be interested in dissolving, as of right now to my knowledge there isn’t another municipality that said ‘we will take the city in.’ It can’t just dissolve on its own, it has to go someplace, there has to be services provide by somebody. Even if there was a commitment from one entity, there needs to be two, of course,” he explained.

Turner is hopeful to have more information regarding the grant application in the coming week.

16 Comments

  1. Dave Turner’s statement shows the need to look in
    to it further. At this point we need more criteria on what is required for the city to do the study. Also as Dave stated, the county legislator must have some kind of vision how or who will shared the
    services. Let us all do our homework, GOOD LUCK!

  2. Paul Tetro, There are three factors here. I. City must agree to study. 2.Some other municipality must agree to have Fulton dissolve into it.IE:Granby or Voloney. 3. The voters have the final say. If the first two don’t happen then there will be no study. I say it is worth a try. Something has to be done we are dying a slow death here. The thing that would save us would be the Inland Port.

  3. Volney doesn’t want or need your problems! Why would you even think we would want you back. Fulton, always with their hands out, begging for money. It’s not up to Volney to solve any of your problems! Your police force is too big, your fire department costs too much. We have the State Police and Sheriff’s Department, and VOLUNTEERS , who do a wonderful job, for fire protection. Fulton over the years has stolen land from Volney and Granby, because the stores were going to save them. Well you were able to annex the land and you’ve got all those empty store fronts and a college to prove it. Laying your problems on others backs is not the solution.

  4. I’d let Fulton dissolve into the city of Oswego if it would finally lower my water/sewer rates and give me free garbage pickup.

  5. So where will there be savings? Roads still have to be plowed (and once a century paved) . Water and sewer will still need to be maintained. You will still need fire and police. Lets not forget building inspections, permits, zoning and on and on.
    I just hope Granby DOES NOT agree to absorb you. All you are trying to do is spread your expenses out among more property owners.

  6. Hey Frank maybe you should focus more on bringing business and other things back into the city and surrounding areas, get off your behind and do what’s right for the area. Consolidation does work on somethings but not all. Your constantly bad mouthing the city and the police and fire Dept. …. Why is that ?

  7. Finally, everybody is starting to take their collective heads out of the sand. The city and mayor knows the state has put us on top of the list of “severely distressed cities” a few years ago when we applied for help and they said it would be available if we agreed to consolidate services. Seems like that was a viable study done by an outside body the State of NY when they came to that conclusion. The problem is the mayor and the council just want the money to pay off some bills, but not have to speak the truth to the citizens and continue down the road.
    In my opinion this will have to happen sooner rather than later because bankruptcy of the city will happen and there goes the bond ratings that allow the city to buy equipment and do projects.

    Going forward valuable services can be provided by O.C. Sheriff and NY State Troopers, a scaled down fire mutual aid, EMS is already privatized, school board is separate, and Oswego County highway department!
    Until the city does something to lower the “highest per capita property tax city” in the state, you will continue down the road of tax foreclosures, unfunded liabilities in pensions, bonds, etc and no new businesses or workplaces will open within the city.

    The Council was actually congratulating themselves over how they sold off people homes successfully this past year and brought the money into the city coffers. Look how far we have fallen and the only question left is how much farther are the Mayor and his administration going to allow the city to fall and will they take us to the edge bankruptcy or are we already there?

  8. IM Watching…,the County doesn’t even plow it’s own roads and now you want them to do yours? Is the city going to pay to have extra O.C. patrols in Fulton? Do you think our FD in Granby/Volney/Phoenix are going to service Fulton? Stop looking for others to pay for your services. Your FD will never be cheap because of Towpath Tower even if you go volunteer. Who would take over the water Dept.? Who would fix the sewers. Would you sell the War Memorial and the rink? What about the street lighting….break into lighting districts?

  9. IF any of this goes down the path of a vote, it is not just the City of Fulton that will vote…. it will be the two towns also….unless the city decides to go to a village. Since I represent the City and Granby I can say that I have not heard from anyone in Granby that wants the City of Fulton to dissolve and only a couple that live within the city that support that action.

  10. I’M Watching. Your points are well taken but that study from the state also include looking at the Fire and police costs. Has there any progress on this matter.

  11. Tired of the BS…your reading comprehension level is that of a second grader…My job isn’t to bring business into the city or county that is your fine CDA and IDA’s job. And what a great one their are doing. I have never said anything bad about either the Fire, Police or the City. I have said we can’t afford the cost of each of those groups. I have said that the decisions made by our city Administration are poor. You sound like a city common councilor that I know. I tried to help save the Fire dept. by getting a county wide fire district, I have tried also and I am still trying to get the inland port to be placed just south of the city by the college. My job is to protect the tax money of the county taxpayers and insure the services they receive are at the lowest cost possible. So Tried of the BS…this might be a little to much for you to comprehend by try please or have someone explain it to you. Also this a State and County idea right now.

  12. Obviously there will be some issues that will have to be worked out. But basically taxing districts for water sewer, recreational, garbage will be paid by the users in their tax bill! Essentially the police with meld into the OC Sheriff and NY State Troopers, the Fire Department will have a hybrid with volunteer and full time personnel, code enforcement will be county wide one boss with three enforcement inspectors same with highway department. Because of the elimination of the mayor administration, fire chief, police chief dispatchers other employees benefits and other duplication taxes should go down considerably in the towns that decide to go along with Fulton, and the rate of increase should be slowed significantly in the future. Unfortunately because of poor fiscal management you really have no choice, there is no alternative plan that I can see from our leaders.

  13. Unfunded liabilities which I am sure are many but hidden like pensions and bond payments will have to be paid off over time with some of the property taxes collected after consolidation. When that happens there should be significant savings in property taxes going forward.

    We are now paying three policeman, the present one, the one that just retired and the one that retired before him, same with fire. That is the crux of your tax bill. Need conservative principles to solve these problems.
    Bankruptcy by the city will wipe out pensions and all other long term debt in bonds and such, not a pleasant thought, but maybe coming around the corner. One bad winter or unexpected large expenditure, wipes out the city’s ability to handle it. Don’t believe we have adequate or any reserves according to the NY State Treasury who did the study and recommended consolidation.

  14. I think the study makes sense. It is hard for the city’s leaders to make the difficult decisions, because they are part of the problem. They want to be re-elected, and they go into office claiming to reform things and lower taxes, but they fail to follow-through. Those commenting above from Volney and Granby forget that the residents of Fulton also pay county taxes. We are currently serviced by the NYS State Police and Oswego County Sheriff’s Department also. Can’t wait to learn the results of the study.

  15. Maybe Fulton needs new leadership? Looking to the city north of us, they have a mayor of a much younger generation who is innovative and not boxed in by the constrictive thinking of the past. Fulton’s mayor has already decided that dissolution is not a viable option. The City of Fulton needs a change of course. It is heading toward a fiscal cliff, and it is going to take its residents along for the death spiraling ride. Look at the homes for sale around the city that remain on the market for sale month after month. Even those trying to sell their homes in the Third Ward (the wealthiest area of the city) can’t seem to find interested buyers. Homes there have lost value in general instead of at least holding their own.

  16. I spoke to soon about the fire department, I see now that the city and F.D. are going to arbitration . I’M Watching’s idea is RIGHT ON!. This gives a vision how this could work . This why we need that study to be done. Ultimately shared services could mean lower property, We need to find this out!!! Mr Castiglia is not wrong!

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