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League of Women Voters Debate Expanding Town Board

NEW CASTLE, N.Y. – The League of Women Voters convened its opposition at Town Hall Monday to a proposed referendum over a ward system that would increase the New Castle Town Board from four to six “at-large” members. Although supporters of the referendum believe the change would localize representation on the board in a positive way, others feel it will divide the town on localized issues.

The proposed referendum, which will be on the Nov. 8 ballot, would divide New Castle into six voting wards based on population. Each ward would then elect a representative to serve on the town board.

Manny Areces, a member of the Ad Hoc Citizens’ Committee for the Representation, said he opposed the referendum and believes many areas in town are neglected by the board because they do not have proper representation.

“Many, many of our town’s areas have never had a town board member from their neighborhood,” said Areces. “Some interests are local and personal, and those concerns also deserve the attention of the board.”

Areces received opposition at the meeting from Supervisor Barbara Gerrard, who was chosen as a representative for the League of Women Voters and spoke on the group’s behalf against the referendum.

“The real difficulty with the ward system is that it’s divisive and pits one part of town against the interests of a united town,” said Gerrard.

Gerrard and Areces were joined on the panel by Chuck Lesnick, president of the Yonkers City Council, who provided expertise on the subject. Yonkers works in a system similar to what is being proposed in the referendum.

Lesnick said that while his city operates under the system, it does so because of its much larger population. According to Lesnick, each of the wards within the City of Yonkers are larger than the entire Town of New Castle.

If approved, New Castle would become the first town in Westchester County to use a ward system. At approximately 17,600 residents, it would also be the smallest populated town in New York to implement the system.

There would be approximately 3,000 residents per ward, with an average of 2,000 registered voters. Gerrard said he and the league believe that with such a small population, further division of the town is unnecessary.

“Ultimately what the proponents have said about voting yes on the proposition is that one would have more representation. After analysis, there’s less, not more,” said Gerrard. “At a time when governments are shrinking, villages are folding into towns, and the governor is offering financial incentives to encourage mergers of town and villages all over the state, forming another government within New Castle would counter to those austerity measures. It is certainly costly.”

Adding two extra board members would also include adding two extra board member salaries at $10,250 each per year.

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