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Massena village board adopts budget with 4.75% levy hike; Deshaies votes no


MASSENA - While a tax levy increase that once sat at 18 percent was reduced down to a 4.75 percent tax levy increase, the increase was still too much for one village trustee.

The village board adopted a budget with general fund expenditures of $8,891,888 by a vote of 4-1, with Trustee Albert C. “Herb” Deshaies casting the sole vote against the proposal.

“It’s too high,” Mr. Deshaies said following the meeting. “If we could come up with $43,000 in cuts, I’m sure we could have came up with another percent.”

Mr. Deshaies said he would have liked to have seen each of the department heads asked to review their department’s budgets again.

“I revert back to what I said before. We should have sent it back to each of the department heads and had them cut their budgets by 5 percent. It’s still too much. We are a retirement community,” he said.

The 4.75 percent tax levy increase translates to an actual increase of 48 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value for village residents in the town of Massena and 18 cents for village residents in the town of Louisville.

Treasurer Julie Sharlow said town of Massena residents can expect to see their tax rate increase 3.3 percent from $14.48 to $14.96 per $1,000 of assessed property value. Residents in Louisville, she said will see their rate increase 1.2 percent from $15.24 to $15.42 per $1,000 of assessed property value.

While Mr. Deshaies may not have been pleased with the budget, Mayor James F. Hidy and other trustees felt like the proposal was one they could live with.

“I’m good with it, but we have to remember it’s a double-edged sword,” Trustee Timothy J. Ahlfeld said, adding the additional cuts announced Tuesday night is likely money that won’t be available to roll over into next year’s budget.

“We’ve found $43,000 that we’re not going to have in the fund balance next year,” he said.

Addressing those cuts .Mr. Hidy said, “You have in your packets this afternoon some proposed cuts in various departments.”

Those cuts included $38,000 from the Department of Public Works and an additional $5,000 from the police department.

In a memo distributed to village board members on Tuesday, Ms. Sharlow wrote, “I looked over the expense history from the last two fiscal years, as well as expenses this fiscal year-to-date, through yesterday, and I feel the following may be feasible.”

The DPW’s cuts included $18,000 in personal services, $5,000 in street maintenance, $5,000 in road construction and $10,000 in snow removal. The police department’s cuts include $5,000 to the department’s contractual expenses.

With the additional cuts to his department, Mr. Fayad said he feels like the village should no longer be maintaining privately owned properties. Currently, Mr. Fayad said the village maintains Leach Street, as well as downtown parking lot off Andrews Street located adjacent to the fire station.

“We should not be plowing or maintaining private properties with this budget,” he said.

Trustee Francis J. Carvel said given that the village has maintained Leach Street for decades, state law prohibits them from no longer doing so.

“There’s a state law out there that says once you’ve maintained a thoroughfare for so long you can’t just stop,” he said. “If we were to be sued, we would lose in a hands down.”

Mr. Hidy said given what he was initially looking at he’s pleased with the village’s final budget. His initial spending proposal presented to the village board called for a 9.7 percent tax hike.

“I’m very happy. I think the department heads did a great job, as did our treasurer, Julie Sharlow. Unfortunately health insurance and workman’s compensation generated the bulk of our increase, which was unavoidable.

Mr. Sharlow said the general fund portion of workmen’s compensation increased $90,562 up to $234,903 for next year with health insurance increasing $108,170 to $1,694,738.

Neither the mayor or trustees saw raises included in the spending plan with their salaries remaining at $17,000 for the mayor and $6,000 for each of the four other trustees.

To help balance the budget, the village is using $250,000 from its fund balance, a decrease of $322,932 from what was used in support of the current year’s spending plan. Once the $250,000 is accounted for, Ms. Sharlow said the village is left with a fund balance of only $582,000, a number that is concerning to her.

“We should be at 10 percent of our expenses,” she said at a previous meeting. “It should be $900,000.”

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