Massena village budget slashed further, trustees want tax levy increase down to 5 percent
Wednesday, April 23, 2014 - 5:42 pm

By ANDY GARDNER

MASSENA -- Despite slashing the 2014-2015 village budget even further, the Village Board of Trustees doesn't think the cuts are deep enough and want the tax levy increase down to 5 percent at the highest.

"If we could get down to five (percent), I'm still not happy with five but it's palatable," Trustee Timothy Ahfeld said. "I think we're going to have a better success passing this if it's at five (percent). Six (percent) is pretty high."

The board cut $10,000 from the Business Development Corporation and about $7,000 from the joint recreation budget at a Wednesday night work session.

The tax levy increase is down to 5.8 percent, Village Treasurer Julie Sharlow said.

The new tax rate, at 100 percent equalization, is $15.15, according to the treasurer. That means the owner of a $50,000 home would pay $757.50 in taxes and the owner of a $100,000 home would be billed $1,515.

Total spending under the tentative blueprint, according to Sharlow, is down to $8,686,265.

Mayor James Hidy has tasked the village's department heads with looking for further cuts and reporting back to him by Friday, Sharlow said.

Trustee Albert "Herb" Deshaies said he thinks the village should offset the tax increase with fund balance.

"Take fifty thousand off the reserve (fund)," he said.

Sharlow said the fund balance has less than $625,000 left.

"It should be a million," Trustee Francis Carvel said.

Hidy said the village may "still have an ace in the hole." He said state Sen. Joe Griffo told him legislation that has gone through in Albany that would allot the village $100,000 for capital projects, but can only be used for such a purpose.

The village may be paying a slightly larger percentage of the total joint recreation budget than in the past.

It now splits the bill with the town 60/40, with the village paying the larger share. That's based on the total assessed value in Massena, of which 60 percent is in the village boundary and the rest is outside the line.

The problem is, the number doesn't include West Massena, a portion that is in the Town of Louisville but part of the Village of Massena. With West Massena, it breaks down to a 63/37 split.

Councilman Albert Nicola, who has served on both the village and town boards for years, said he doesn't know how West Massena was left out when the joint rec commission formed.

Councilman John Macaulay said the West Massena residents do pay a recreation tax, but the rest of the village pays a higher rate since their assessment isn't included in the budget.

Town Supervisor Joseph Gray said he has communicated with the state Comptroller's Office on the issue, they say West Massena should be included in the split.

The village will hold a final budget work session at 5 p.m. on April 29. A budget has to be adopted by May 1.