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Gray proposes tax rate decrease for Massena residents

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MASSENA - Following a year in which the town of Massena’s taxpayers saw tax rate increases of more than 20 percent, Town Supervisor Joseph D. Gray initial budget proposal calls for tax decreases for all of the town’s taxpayers.

Mr. Gray said the restoration of gaming compact funds, coupled with anticipated increases in sales tax revenue, made this year’s proposal possible.

Referring to the nearly $500,000 in gaming compact funds the town is expecting to receive next year, Mr. Gray said, “It enabled us to cover things like the BDC, the local share of the airport projects and the chamber of commerce.”

Last year, without those monies, Mr. Gray said each of those expenditures fell onto the shoulders of the taxpayers.

Mr. Gray also said that this year’s proposal includes small reductions to several line items, as well as the restoration of funding to many of the agencies that were cut last year.

“It’s a pretty good budget, all in all,” he said. “Will the town board want to tweak it some? I’m sure they will.”

At this point Mr. Gray’s budget calls for $7,730,637 in expenditures, with $2,380,366 of that coming from the tax levy.

According to Mr. Gray’s budget presentation, taxpayers inside the village will see a decrease of 5 percent, or 22 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. Taxpayers outside the village will see their rate decrease 75 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value, a savings of 14 percent.

Given the village rate of $4.23 per $1,000 of assessed property value, Mr. Gray said the owner of a $90,000 property owners see a tax decrease of $19.80. With a tax rate of $4.60 per $1,000 of assessed property value, taxpayers living outside the village owning a $90,000 will see a decrease of $67.50.

“The town of Massena’s supervisor’s budget for 2014, while far from perfect, contains much good news for a number of interested parties,” Mr. Gray said, reading from his budget summary.

“First and foremost, taxpayers will get a break this year.” he said.

Mr. Gray also said he was able to restore funding to many agencies who saw their funding cut last year.

“Many of them asked to have their funding restored to 2012 levels and some asked for additional funding,” he wrote. “While we were able to restore some funding in a few isolated instances, we did not increase any agency to a level higher than 2012.

Among the agencies, who saw a portion go their funding restored were the library, who will see a $40,000 funding increase, giving them $671,800 in taxpayer funds, and Meals on Wheels.

“This organization (Meals on Wheels) requested $14,500 for 2014, up $6,400 from the $8,100 they received in 2013,” he said. “I have allocated $9,500 to them for 2014. Although this was a difficult decision, I believe outside organizations must begin to move away from asking government to bear the cost of increases to their budget and look to additional fundraising and grant opportunities to meet their needs.”

Mr. Gray is also budgeting $20,000 for FISHCAP to come from gaming compact funds and $20,000 for “fishing tournament recruitment and promotion specifically in the town of Massena. I think the town’s earlier allocations to FISHCAP have been money well spent, and I am convinced our area will continue to see a positive return on this investment,” he said.

“You will notice I have also included $20,000 for fishing tournament recruitment and promotion specifically in the town of Massena. There are literally dozens of fishing tournaments each year throughout the Northeastern United States. Massena needs to become a player in this league.”

And while Mr. Gray did not budget a salary increase for himself, he did budget a $1,000 increase for each of the four town councilmen.

“Members of the town council have not had a raise in more than a decade, but they are being asked to do more,” he said. “The last salary increase was 13 years ago in 2000 when the annual salary of the town councilmen went from $4,592 per year to $5,000. With the proposed raise, councilmen will now earn $6,000 per year.

Mr. Gray said his salary of $14,500 will remain the same.

After reviewing Mr. Gray’s proposal, board members voted to adopt the 2014 budget calendar. That calendar calls for the board to meet each Wednesday now through Nov. 13, with a public hearing on the budget set for 5:30 p.m. Nov. 6 and the adoption of the budget planned at their Nov. 13 regular meeting.

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