NY towns considering secession over COVID mandates

Some towns in upstate New York opposed to mask mandates and other public health measures put in place during the pandemic are considering voting with their feet and switching counties.

The Buffalo News reported representatives from Marilla, Wales, Holland and Grand Island were among a group that met last week to discuss leaving Erie County for Wyoming or Niagara counties.

Marilla Supervisor Earl Gingerich Jr., whose town is about 8 miles from downtown Buffalo and hosted the meeting, said the effort is serious and that Erie County government directs more of its resources toward Buffalo and its close suburbs at the expense of smaller towns.

"Our opinion out here is, it’s ‘We, the people,’ not ‘I, the king’ or ‘the tyrant," he told the News.

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Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz said the towns would lose sales tax and other shared revenue if they left, and said the county is the only one in New York that shares sales tax revenue with its municipalities and school districts.

"Erie County always works better when we work together, and my administration will always work to find ways to unite our community rather than split it apart," Poloncarz said in a statement.

Seceding is a rare move in New York and involves a complicated process. An attorney working with the towns on a preliminary study, the News reported. Then, 20% of voters in those communities would have to sign a petition that would initiate a formal feasibility study.

The move would then have to be approved by the voters in each town and the governing bodies of both counties. If Erie County objected, a judge would have to rule whether it is in the public's best interests, the News reported.