Village Government

In New York State, the village is a general purpose municipal corporation formed voluntarily by the residents of an area in one or more towns to provide themselves with municipal services. But when a village is created, its area still remains a part of the town where it is located, and its residents continue to be residents and taxpayers of that town.

The first village was incorporated at the end of the eighteenth century. The village form of municipal organization became a prominent feature of the state’s growing metropolitan areas between 1900 and 1940. The patterns of village organization are similar to those of cities.

Many people think of villages as being small, rural communities. Population size alone, however, does not determine whether one community becomes a village and another remains as an unincorporated “hamlet” in a town. In New York State, a village is a legal concept; it is a municipal corporation. The largest village in the state, Hempstead in Nassau County, had more than 53,000 residents in 2010, while the smallest city, Sherrill, had 3,071. Forty-eight of New York’s 62 cities had populations in the year 2010 that were smaller than Hempstead’s.

Villages were originally formed within towns to provide services for clusters of residents, first in relatively rural areas and later in suburban areas around large cities. Today, many of the existing 550 villages are in the areas surrounding the state’s larger cities. Many villages have public service responsibilities which differ little from those of cities, towns and counties, and village officials face the full range of municipal obligations and challenges.

What is a Village?

A village is often referred to as “incorporated.” However, since legally cities, towns, villages and counties are all “incorporated,” there are no “unincorporated villages.” The vernacular “incorporated village” likely came about because villages are areas within towns for which an additional municipal corporation has been formed.

Many places in the state having large numbers of people living in close proximity to one another are neither villages nor cities. Many have names, like neighborhoods often do. Others may even have a post office that bears the community’s name. Some, like Levittown on Long Island, have thousands of residents. If, however, the people in these informal communities have not incorporated pursuant to the Village Law, they do not constitute a village. While many people refer to such places as “hamlets”, the term “hamlet” does not define a formal community like a city, town or village.

By definition, a village is a municipality which, at the time of its incorporation, met statutory requirements then established as prerequisites to that incorporation (Village Law.) Although the Village Law now sets area and population criteria for initial village incorporation, a number of existing villages have populations smaller than the present statutory minimum.

Historical Development

The earliest villages in the state were incorporated partly to circumvent the legal confusion about the nature and scope of town government that resulted from legislative modification of English statutes. Generally, in the decades after the Revolution, villages in New York were created because clusters of people in otherwise sparsely settled towns wanted to secure fire or police protection or other public services. Those inhabitants receiving the fire or police service, and not the whole town, paid for such services. A forerunner of villages appears to have been a 1787 legislative act granting special privileges to part of a town, entitled “An act for the better extinguishing of fires in the town of Brooklyn.”

The appearance of the village as a formal unit of local government stems from the 1790s. Villages were created by special acts of State Legislature, but the starting date for this process is in dispute among historians due to a lack of precision in terminology in those early legislative acts. In 1790, the Legislature granted specific powers to the trustees of “…​ part of the town of Rensselaerwyck, commonly called Lansingburgh.” The term “village” first appeared in state law in a 1794 enactment incorporating Waterford. The legislative act of 1798, providing for the incorporation of Lansingburgh and Troy as villages, is seen by many historians as the first formal authorization in the state for the village form of government. This enactment included all of the legal elements (including an incorporation clause and delegation of taxing and regulatory power) deemed necessary for a true unit of local government.

First mention of the village as a constitutional civil division appeared in a section of the 1821 Constitution prescribing qualifications of voters. The Constitution of 1846 required that the Legislature “provide for the organization of cities and incorporated villages.” The Legislature passed a general Village Law in 1847, but continued to incorporate villages through the enactment of special charters, as it had for the previous half-century. Separate incorporation led to a variety of village government forms, even for villages of similar characteristics. In 1874, however, a revised Constitution forbade incorporation of villages by special act of the State Legislature. Since that time, New York State villages have been formed through local initiative pursuant to the Village Law.

An 1897 revision of the Village Law subjected those villages with charters to provisions of the Village Law that were not inconsistent with their charters. It also gave the charter villages the option of reincorporating under the general law. Although numerous charter villages did reincorporate, 12 villages still operate under charters. These are Alexander, Carthage, Catskill, Cooperstown, Deposit, Fredonia, Ilion, Mohawk, Ossining, Owego, Port Chester and Waterford.

In the first 40 years of the twentieth century, as people moved from cities into the suburbs, more than 160 villages were incorporated under the Village Law. The rapid growth of towns in suburban areas in the late 1930s and following World War II emphasized the need for alternatives to villages. To provide services, suburban areas made increasing use of the town improvement district. This had a profound effect on the growth of villages. Although more than 160 villages were formed from 1900 to 1940, 27 new villages appeared and 26 villages dissolved between 1940 and December 31, 2012.

There were 535 villages in New York State in 2018. They range in size from the Village of Dering Harbor with a 2010 Census population of 11, to the Village of Hempstead, with a 2010 Census population of 53,891. The majority of villages have populations under 2,500, although there were 24 villages between 10,000 and 20,000 population in 2010, and 11 villages with more than 20,000 population.

There are 72 villages located in two towns and 5 villages are located in three towns. There are nine villages which are in two counties. One village, Saranac Lake, lies in three towns and two counties. Five villages — Green Island in Albany County; East Rochester in Monroe County; and Scarsdale, Harrison and Mount Kisco in Westchester County — are coterminous with towns of the same name. A coterminous town-village is a unique form of local government organization. The town and village share the same boundaries and the governing body of one unit of the coterminous government may serve as the governing body of the other unit (i.e., the mayor serves as town supervisor and trustees serve as members of the town board).

Creation and Organization

The Village Law governs the incorporation of new villages and the organization of most existing villages. The 12 remaining charter villages are subject to this law only where it does not conflict with their respective charters.


A territory of 500 or more inhabitants may incorporate as a village in New York State, provided that the territory is not already part of a city or village. The territory must contain no more than five square miles at the time of incorporation, although it may be larger in land area if its boundaries are made coterminous with those of a school, fire, improvement or other district, or the entire boundaries of a town.

The incorporation process begins when a petition, signed by either 20 percent of the residents of the territory qualified to vote, or by the owners of more than 50 percent of the assessed value of real property in the territory, is submitted to the supervisor of the town in which all or the greatest part of the proposed village would lie. If the area lies in more than one town, copies of the petition are presented to the supervisors of the other affected towns.

Within 20 days from the filing of the petition the supervisor of each town affected must post a notice of public hearing on the petition. Where the proposed village is in more than one town, the giving of notice and subsequent hearing are a joint effort of the affected towns. The purpose of the hearing is to determine only whether the petition and the proposed incorporation are in conformance with the provisions of the Village Law. Other considerations and objections to the incorporation are not at issue. This formal hearing must be held between 20 and 30 days following posting of notice.

Within 10 days after the conclusion of the hearing the supervisor of the affected town must judge the legal sufficiency of the petition. If more than one town is involved and the supervisors cannot agree on a decision, their decision is deemed to be adverse to the petition. Any decision made is subject to review by the courts. If no review is sought within 30 days, the decision of the supervisor is final. If the supervisor decides against the petition, a new petition may be presented immediately. If the supervisor finds that the petition meets the requirements of the law or if the petition is sustained by the courts, a referendum is held within the proposed area no later than 40 days after the expiration of 30 days from the filing of the supervisors’ favorable decision, or the filing of a final court order sustaining the petition. Only those residing in the proposed area of incorporation and qualified to vote in town elections may vote in the referendum.

Where the proposed area lies in one town, a majority of those voting is required in order to incorporate. Where more than one town is involved, an affirmative majority in the area proposed for incorporation in each town is required. If the required majorities are not obtained, then the question is defeated, and no new proceeding for incorporation of the same territory may be held for one year. If a favorable vote is obtained, and there is no court challenge, the town clerk of the town in which the original petition has been filed makes a report of incorporation.

Table 1. Village Incorporations Since 1940
Village County Date




Tuxedo Park



Sodus Point



New Square



Atlantic Beach









Lake Grove



Round Lake



Sylvan Beach









Kiryas Joel



Rye Brook



Wesley Hills



New Hempstead









Chestnut Ridge



Pine Valley









W. Hampton Dunes



East Nassau






S. Blooming Grove






Mastic Beach



The report is sent to the Secretary of State, the State Comptroller, the State Office of Real Property Services, the county clerk and county treasurer of each county in which the village will be located, and the town clerks of each town in which the village will be located.

Upon receipt of the report, the Secretary of State prepares and files a Certificate of Incorporation. The certificate is also filed with the clerks of each town in which the village is located. The village is deemed incorporated on the date the report is filed with the Secretary of State. Within five days after the filing of the Certificate of Incorporation, the clerks of each town in which the village is located jointly appoint a resident of the new village area to serve as village clerk until a successor is chosen by the village’s first elected board of trustees. Election of the board and mayor is held within 60 days of the appointment of the interim village clerk, except in instances where the new village embraces the entire territory of a town. In that case the election of village officers is held at the next regular election of town officials occurring not less than 30 days after the filing of the certificate of village incorporation.

The Legislative Body

The legislative body of a village — the board of trustees — is composed of the mayor and four trustees. However, the board may increase or decrease the number of trustees, subject to either referendum on petition or mandatory referendum, depending on how the local law is structured. Trustees are elected for a two-year term unless otherwise provided by local law.

The village board has broad powers to govern the affairs of the village, including:

  • organizing itself and providing for rules of procedure

  • adopting a budget and providing for the financing of village activities;

  • abolishing or creating offices, boards, agencies and commissions, and delegating powers to these units;

  • managing village properties; and

  • granting final approval of appointments of all non-elected officers and employees made by the mayor.

The mayor presides over meetings of the board. A majority of the board, as fully constituted, is a quorum. No business may be transacted unless a quorum is present.

Executive Branch

The chief executive officer of most villages in New York State is the mayor. Unless otherwise provided by local law or charter, the mayor is elected for a two-year term. In addition to executive duties, the mayor presides over all meetings of the board of trustees and may vote on all questions coming before that body. The mayor must vote to break a tie. Unless provided by local law the mayor does not have veto power. The mayor is responsible for enforcing laws within the village and for supervising the police and other officers of the village. The mayor may share the law-enforcement responsibility with a village attorney — who may handle prosecutions for violations of village laws — and the county district attorney — who usually handles general criminal prosecutions in the county.

At the direction of the board of trustees, the mayor may initiate civil action on behalf of the village or may intervene in any legal action “necessary to protect the rights of the village and its inhabitants.” Subject to the approval of the board of trustees, the mayor appoints all department and non-elected officers and employees. Except in villages which have a manager, the mayor acts as the budget officer. The mayor may, however, designate any other village officer to be budget officer. The budget officer serves at the mayor’s pleasure. The mayor ensures that all claims against the village are properly investigated; the mayor may also execute contracts approved by the board of trustees and issue licenses. In certain cases, when authorized by the board of trustees, the mayor may sign checks and cosign, with the clerk, orders to pay claims.

At the annual meeting of the board of trustees, the mayor appoints one of the trustees as deputy mayor. If the mayor is absent or unable to act as mayor, the deputy mayor is vested with and may perform all the duties of that office.

Village Managers or Administrators

In order to provide full-time administrative supervision and direction some villages have created the office of village manager or administrator. The position of village manager is created by a local law, which fixes the powers of the office and the term of the incumbent. As an alternative to direct adoption of a local law establishing a village manager, a village may create a commission to prepare a local law establishing a village manager and defining the manager’s duties and responsibilities. The commission must issue a report within the time set forth in the local law, which can be no later than two years after the appointment of its members. While there is no mandate that the commission prepare a local law creating a village manager, if the commission does prepare such a local law, it must be placed before the voters at a referendum; the board of trustees need not approve the local law.

The village manager is usually assigned administrative functions which would otherwise performed by the mayor. Under the Village Law, the manager may designate another village official as budget officer, to serve at the pleasure of the manager.

Fifty five villages in New York State had an administrator or manager in 2005; they are listed in Villages Which Have Administrators/Managers [1]. Some of these individuals hold more than one title and some are known as “coordinator”.

Table 2. Villages Which Have Administrators/Managers [1]





Briarcliff Manor





Dobbs Ferry

East Aurora

East Hampton

East Rochester




Floral Park


Garden City

Great Neck Estates





Huntington Bay


Lake Success




Massapequa Park


Mount Kisco



Ocean Beach

Old Westbury



Pelham Manor


Port Chester

Port Jefferson


Rockville Centre

Sea Cliff

Seneca Falls


South Floral Park




Other Village Officers

The village treasurer is the chief fiscal officer of the village. The treasurer maintains custody of all village funds, issues all checks and prepares an annual report of village finances.

The village clerk has responsibility for maintaining all records of the village. The clerk collects all taxes and assessments, when authorized by the village board, and orders the treasurer to pay claims. The clerk is required “on demand of any person” to “produce for inspection the books, records and papers of the office.” The clerk must keep an index of written notices of defective conditions on village streets, highways, bridges or sidewalks and must bring these notices to the attention of the board at the next board meeting or within 10 days after their receipt, whichever is sooner.

Unless local law provides otherwise, the mayor appoints both the clerk and the treasurer with the approval of the board of trustees. The village board may also establish a term of office for each position by local law. In many villages, the offices of clerk and treasurer are combined and are held by a single person.

The board of trustees may establish the office of village justice. Where no village justice is established, or where the office has been abolished, the functions devolve on the justices of the town — or towns — in which the village is located.

Organization for Service Delivery

Differences in the size of villages and in the services they perform make it difficult to describe the organization of a “typical” village. Larger villages often have multi-departmental organizations similar to cities, while small villages may employ one or two individuals. Functions performed by villages range from basic road repair and snow removal to large-scale community development programs and public utility plants. A number of villages operate their own municipal electric systems.

Financing Village Services

Like most local governments, villages have a strong reliance on the real property tax to finance their activities. In the 2012 fiscal year the real property tax accounted for 49 percent of total village revenues in New York State. The balance of revenues comes from a variety of sources. These include user charges and other revenue from water and sewer services, electric systems, airports and marinas, as well as license and rental fees and penalties on taxes. Special activities generated 37 percent of all village revenues in fiscal 2012. Sales tax revenues in 2012 accounted for 6 percent of total revenues for villages. State and federal aid provided 8 percent of village revenue in 2012.

State Aid and Village Finance

The major state aid program which provides funds to villages is per capita revenue sharing. Other important components of state aid to villages include the mortgage tax, aid for the construction and operation of sewage treatment plants, and aid to youth bureaus and recreation programs. A more detailed discussion of revenue sharing and other state aid appears in [administering_local_finances#administering_local_finances].

The mortgage tax is a state tax which is collected by counties. The allocation to towns is made according to the location of the real property covered by the mortgages upon which the tax was collected. For towns which contain a village within its limits, a portion of the town allocation is made to the village according to the proportion the assessed value of the village bears to twice the total assessed valuation of the town. While a village, under this formula, would receive aid even if no mortgages were registered in a village, the town may receive the greater amount of revenue, even though much of the property which yields the revenue may be within villages in the town.

Village Dissolution

Just as villages are formed by local action, they can be dissolved by local action. Article 17-A of the General Municipal Law, effective March 2010, provides the procedure for village officials and electors to disband their village. Since villages are formed within towns, the underlying town or towns would become fully responsible for governing the territory of the former village after it is dissolved.

The dissolution process may be commenced by the village board of trustees on its own motion or through the presentation of an appropriate petition to the board of trustees. If the board seeks to initiate dissolution process on its own motion, it may submit a proposition to dissolve the village to the electors, in accordance with a plan for dissolution. If a petition is presented, the board is obligated to hold a referendum on the dissolution question. If a majority of electors vote to dissolve, then the board must create and endorse a ‘dissolution plan’, which is subject to permissive referendum by the electors. In either case, the question must be decided by the voters of the village at an election.

It is not unusual for a village board to seek assistance of community members and other government officials as it explores the question of dissolution. One way of doing this is to form a study committee charged with preparing a dissolution study and a draft dissolution plan for consideration by the board of trustees. Alternatively, the board of trustees can study dissolution on its own, with the assistance of other village officers and employees. Since village dissolution results in the termination of the corporate entity, there are many issues to be considered, including:

  • potential means to continue services, such as fire, police, garbage collection, water and sewer services, and the projected cost of services;

  • disposition of surplus village properties;

  • regulatory matters, such as the continuation of land use restrictions; and

  • continuing contractual matters, including public employee contracts.

Many of these issues require implementation by the underlying town or towns, yet the statutory dissolution process provides no role for towns. Despite this, successful dissolutions have involved town officials from the start of dissolution deliberations. This can be accomplished through active participation of town officials on a village study committee or through regular joint meetings of village and town officers. While village electors alone determine whether dissolution will occur, these same electors are, and will continue to be after dissolution, town electors as well. This factor favors early and active participation by town officers as the plan for dissolution is formed.

Table 3. Village Dissolutions in New York State
Village Date

Altmar (Oswego County)


Andes (Delaware County)


Belleville (Jefferson County)


Bloomingdale (Essex County)


Bridgewater (Oneida County)


Downsville (Delaware County)


East Randolph (Cattaraugus County)


Edwards (St. Lawrence County)


Elizabethtown (Essex County)


Fillmore (Allegany County)


Forestport (Oneida County)


Fort Covington (Franklin County)


Friendship (Allegany County


Henderson (Jefferson County)


Keeseville (Clinton & Essex County)


LaFargeville (Jefferson County)


Limestone (Cattaraugus County)


Lyons (Wayne County)


Marlborough (Ulster County)


Mooers (Clinton County)


Newfield (Tompkins County)


North Bangor (Franklin County)


Northville (Suffolk County)


Old Forge (Herkimer County)


Oramel (Allegany County)


Pike (Wyoming County)


Prattsburg (Steuben County)


Prattsville (Greene County)


Randolph (Cattaraugus County)


Rifton (Ulster County)


Rosendale (Ulster County)


Perrysburg (Cattaraugus County)


Pine Valley (Suffolk County)


Pine Hill (Ulster County)


Pleasant Valley (Dutchess County)


Roxbury (Delaware County)


Savannah (Wayne County)


Schenevus (Otsego County)


Seneca Falls (Seneca County)


The Landing (Suffolk County)


Ticonderoga (Essex County)


Westport (Essex County)


Woodhull (Steuben County)


Several significant trends, issues and problems affecting village government in New York have become apparent in the last quarter of the Twentieth Century.


The power to zone the area of the village separately from the remainder of the town still provides an incentive for village incorporation. The 1972 recodification of the Village Law continues the authority of the board of trustees to regulate land use, lot sizes and density of development. With certain exceptions, villages which adopt their first zoning law must establish a zoning commission to draft regulations and establish zone boundaries. They must also establish a zoning board of appeals to hear appeals from decisions made by the village official who enforces zoning regulations. A more detailed discussion of zoning and other aspects of land use regulation appears in [land_use_planning_and_regulation#land_use_planning_and_regulation]. It should be noted that the proliferation of villages in Nassau County resulted in a charter provision that grants zoning authority to towns within any territory incorporated as a village on or after January 1, 1963. There have, however, been no villages incorporated on or since that date.

Village-Town Relations

Fiscal relations continue to be a source of contention between towns and villages. Village residents are liable for payment of taxes to the town in which their village is located, as well as to the village in which they reside. Before the advent of the automobile, village residents rarely considered this dual taxation unduly burdensome. However, the need for paved town roads and the rapid growth of population in towns near the state’s metropolitan areas has greatly increased expenditures for town highways and highway-related items.

The State Highway Law exempts village residents from paying the costs of repair and improvement of town highways, thus relieving them of a substantial portion of the town highway maintenance expense. Unless exempted by the town board, however, village residents must help bear the costs of town highway equipment and snow removal on town roads. Village residents not exempted from such highway costs may believe they are being taxed for town services they do not receive or use in addition to being taxed for the same services within their village. Villages also regard as inequitable the rent the town may charge for village use of the town highway equipment that the village residents have already helped pay for through taxation.

The question of who should pay for what services has been a source of contention between towns and villages since the 1950s, but it is one which can be resolved through local cooperative action. Towns and their constituent villages often undertake formal and informal cooperative ventures. Many share municipal buildings as well as officials and employees, or engage in cooperative purchasing, auto maintenance and emergency vehicle dispatching. For example, one government may provide library, ambulance, landfill or recreation programs to the other at a negotiated fee. More information on inter-municipal agreements is found in [public_authorities_regional_agencies_and_intergovernmental_cooperation#public_authorities_regional_agencies_and_intergovernmental_cooperation].

1. Source: 2005 NYCOM Directory of City & Village Officials, New York State Conference of Mayors and Municipal Officials, 2005.

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