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Chaumont voters to determine village’s fate on Election Day

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CHAUMONT — The vote to decide the fate of Chaumont as a village is now just a month away.

And despite their decision to bring the proposed dissolution to a public referendum, village officials say they were never in favor of allowing the town of Lyme to take over all municipal functions.

“The board was adamantly opposed to this,” said William C. Borden, a village trustee and chairman of the Chaumont Dissolution Committee.

But if village trustees took it upon themselves to reject the dissolution plan this summer, he said, a small group of residents in favor of dissolution could have submitted a petition forcing a public vote on a date when only few would show up at the polls.

Center for Governmental Research Inc., a Rochester nonprofit company the village hired for a dissolution study, estimated an annual net savings of $27,940 upon dissolution — assuming the town of Lyme receives $30,757 annually through the state’s Citizen Empowerment Tax Credit program.

In its study report, CGR projects a 49 percent tax reduction for Chaumont residents with the state incentives and by combining resources but an 8 percent property tax increase for town residents.

While the proposed merger affects every property owner in Lyme, under state law, only village voters have a say in the matter.

Chaumont has an estimated population of 625 — roughly 29 percent of the overall town of Lyme population — including about 300 registered voters.

During the study, Lyme Town Supervisor Scott G. Aubertine, a Chaumont resident, said the Town Council is “100 percent” behind the dissolution plan as it is proposed and voiced his personal support early in the process.

But village officials doubt Town Council members will follow through with the plan.

“Village residents will not have the same representation if the town board takes control,” Mr. Borden said.

Deputy Mayor James Price voted against accepting the plan because he did “not trust the town one bit.”

Mayor Valerie E. Rust also has said she fears there may have been topics overlooked in the study and expressed doubt over the hefty projected tax reductions for Chaumont residents.

Nonetheless, if approved by village voters Nov. 6, the state-mandated dissolution process will take a year or so to complete, and Chaumont would become a hamlet, like Three Mile Bay, also in the town of Lyme, as of Jan. 1, 2014.

The village was named in 1833 after its founder, James D. LeRay de Chaumont, and was incorporated as a village in 1874. A similar dissolution proposal came up for a vote in March 1999 but fell 129-72.

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