January 20, 2022

Vote triggers referendum

Little York Lake residents to now decide on taxing district

Kevin Conlon/city editor

The Cortland County Legislature voted Thursday to set a referendum on creating a special taxing district to cover homes on Little York Lake in Preble and Homer. The plan would tax property owners to finance lake maintenance

Residents on Little York Lake are another step closer to voting directly on whether to create a taxing district to maintain the lake.

The Cortland County Legislature voted, 15-0, Thursday to recommend creating a special taxing district — a decision that skips the need for petitions to send the matter to a referendum. Legislators Beau Harbin (D-Cortland) and Joseph Nauseef (R-Cortlandville) were absent.

Little York Lake Preservation Society Treasurer Don Fisher said this was the decision he had hoped for.
“This is just standard permit process,” he said. “We expected that this would get passed tonight. For a permissive referendum, a certain number of the affected individuals must file a petition, but this vote triggered the referendum automatically.”

In October, the county Legislature’s Agriculture, Planning and Environmental Committee voted in favor of amending the resolution that would create the district, preferring to let the owners of properties on the lake decide directly.

“The county doesn’t want to give another tax,” Committee Chairman Kevin Fitch (R-Homer, Preble, Scott) said in October.

“Everyone felt that the people around the lake who were impacted by this tax district should vote on it,” Fisher said. “If they vote for it, then it should go into effect, and if they don’t, then it doesn’t. So this was really a formality.”

Earlier this year, the lake association collected around 80 signatures on a petition to propose the taxing district.

The lake has 114 properties along its shores, Fisher said.

The goal of the taxing district is to raise about $15,000 a year to maintain the lake, which has become overrun by invasive species and requires dredging.

The taxing district, if established, would add 99 cents per $1,000 assessed property value to the property owners’ tax bill, raising about $15,000 a year, Fitch said in October.

In the past, the association has relied on donations from a smaller group of lakefront property owners.

Fitch said the referendum will take place under a special election in both towns, Preble and Homer, where the lake is located. The Cortland County Board of Elections can have the special election no sooner than Jan. 17. Fisher said now he and fellow residents will just wait to hear from election officials.

The question that voters will be asked is, “Do you approve of the creation of the Little York Lake Protection and Rehabilitation District?”

“The majority of the lake residents have been supportive of this – this came from a community initiative, this wasn’t just two people in the backroom trying to figure this out,” Fisher said.

Members of the lake association have spent the past several months meeting, sending out newsletters and posting updates on the website to get residents involved.

“I think this is all part of the process, and we’re confident that things will move forward in a positive direction,” Fisher said.