B y Dan King

Whitehall village residents are paying among the highest taxes in the area, while town residents are paying among the lowest, a newly released report says.

The report, which was released by the fiscally conservative think tank Empire Center, says the village of Whitehall has the seventh-highest effective tax rate per $1,000 in the entire capital region, while the town has the sixth-lowest in the capital region.

The village of Whitehall’s effective tax rate for 2014 was $39.60 per $1,000 and its average tax bill was $2,286. The highest in the entire capital district was the city of Schenectady, which was taxed at a rate of $46.20 per $1,000 with an average bill of $5,392.

On the other hand, the town of Whitehall had an effective tax rate of $21.47 per $1,000 and an average bill of $1,956. The least-taxed municipality in the capital region was the town of Ashland in Greene County, with an effective tax rate of $15.98 per $1,000 and an average bill of $1,035.

Mayor Ken Bartholomew attributes the higher taxes in the village to the amount of services villages offer compared to towns, such as sewer, water, sidewalks, lighting, police and park maintenance. He said there would be “no advantage” to the village dissolving in a manner similar to the village of Salem’s recent dissolution.

One of the more expensive differences between the town and village is police. The village has its own police force – as do some other villages in the county – while the town relies on the Washington County Sheriff’s Department or the State Police.

Bartholomew and town Supervisor George Armstrong have frequently expressed different opinions on the role of the police in the village.

Bartholomew, who also serves as the village’s police commissioner, has advocated for keeping the police, saying they are “there for a reason.”

Armstrong has long been a proponent of dissolving the village police force and having the village use the sheriff’s department. He said the police department is far too expensive.

However, Bartholomew argues that cost-saving measures, such as sharing Chief Ernie Bassett with Granville, make the Whitehall Police Department more sustainable. He added that it helped the village stay under the state-mandated 0.12 percent tax cap.

Of the eight villages in Washington County, only two don’t have a police force – Fort Ann and Argyle. Cambridge and Greenwich are a fully combined force, while Whitehall and Granville share a chief. Hudson Falls and Fort Edward each have their own police force.

The Whitehall Police Department lists 14 officers on its website.

While Armstrong said he feels there are benefits to dissolving the police, he doesn’t think the village as a whole should be dissolved.

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