FORT JOHNSON — Voters in Fort Johnson will decide whether the village government dissolves for absorption into the town of Amsterdam in a public referendum on Tuesday.
Only voters registered in Fort Johnson will cast ballots on the proposition asking simply whether the village should be dissolved. Polls will be open at Village Hall at 1 Prospect Drive from noon to 9 p.m. on Tuesday.
Fort Johnson is wholly located within the town of Amsterdam. The village would be absorbed by the town if dissolved under a plan developed by the LaBerge Group in coordination with officials from both communities.
The village Board of Trustees unanimously approved the dissolution plan in September to set up the impending referendum. Village and town officials have lauded the plan they say would result in lower property taxes and improved services for Fort Johnson residents when they are taken over by the more robust staff in Amsterdam.
If the village dissolves, the town of Amsterdam would assume governance over Fort Johnson and be responsible for providing all public works services. Fort Johnson would retain its name and would become a hamlet within the town.
All elected and staffed positions in the village would be eliminated. Fort Johnson’s clerk and one of its two laborers were already planning to retire. Amsterdam has committed to hiring the village’s remaining full-time highway worker to continue public works tasks in Fort Johnson with the added support of town staff.
Fort Johnson residents would see an immediate savings from the elimination of village property taxes. The village tax rate was $86.71 per $1,000 of assessed property value this year. There is no town wide tax in Amsterdam, but landowners pay taxes for fire protection services.
Services from the Fort Johnson Volunteer Fire Company would continue to be provided locally with the village to be absorbed into the Fort Johnson Fire District. The property tax rate for fire service was previously estimated at $22.87 per $1,000 of assessed value.
The annual sewer debt fee of $185 per parcel for Fort Johsnon property owners would be eliminated with reserve funds to be used to pay off the roughly $349,000 balance from a past improvement project prior to dissolution. A special sewer district would be established by the town to assess annual usage fees at existing rates.
Assuming services in Fort Johnson is expected to cost Amsterdam about $89,724 per year. Those costs should be virtually covered through already growing sales tax revenues in the town and other revenues that would be reapportioned from the village to Amsterdam.
The majority of Fort Johnson’s assets would be turned over to Amsterdam, including most equipment, vehicles and property. Both Village Hall and the fire house would be turned over to the Fort Johnson Volunteer Fire Company.
Fort Johnson leaders support the dissolution plan due to the benefits they say it would provide residents while simultaneously resolving concerns about the community’s long term operation.
Village officials began considering dissolving the government over a year ago as several elected officials and employees look to retire in the small community where involvement by residents has plummeted.
The plan has faced little in the way of opposition, although some residents fear the quality of public works villagers have long enjoyed will decline when taken over by the town. Amsterdam officials have repeatedly committed to maintaining or improving services in Fort Johnson.
Village officials are confident town leaders would follow through on their promises and easily be able to maintain quality services in the small community. Fort Johsnon spans approximately 0.7 square miles with just 467 residents and is a fraction of the size of Amsterdam spanning roughly 29 square miles with 5,523 residents.
If the proposition is approved, the village would formally dissolve on Dec. 31, 2023.
Reach Ashley Onyon at [email protected] or @AshleyOnyon on Twitter.