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Massena boards review funding for code office

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MASSENA - The way Massena funds its code enforcement office may soon change.

The town and village currently split the costs of the shared office in half. The code office currently costs approximately $75,000 a year, according to Treasurer Daniel E. Case.

Councilman John F. Macaulay broached changing that cost distribution at a joint meeting of the village and town boards this week. The code office handles many more calls inside the village than outside, and the town’s contribution should reflect that, he said.

He and Supervisor Joseph D. Gray called it a “fairness” issue. Taxpayers outside the village may be paying a disproportionate amount of the office’s costs, Mr. Gray said.

“It looks at first blush that we want to transfer some of our financial responsibility to the village,” Mr. Gray said. “We think they’re shouldering more than their fair share for the jointly funded agency ... We’re looking to have a fairer representation of costs.”

Town officials are looking at two potential changes to code office funding. One would have the office mirror the funding for the Massena Joint Recreation Commission, which is based on Massena’s total assessed value. The town contributes a 39 percent piece of that agency’s funding, while the village pays the remaining 61 percent. The village comprises 61 percent of Massena’s total assessed value, while the town makes up the difference.

Another option would be to examine what percentage of the office’s workload each year is actually outside the village and break down the costs that way.

Lessening the burden for taxpayers outside the village is important, Mr. Macaulay said. The town council approved a budget last fall which increased the tax rate for homeowners outside the village to $4.39 per $1,000 of assessed valuation from $4.07, a 7.2 percent increase.

“We had to increase the taxes significantly in the town outside the village without a lot of opportunities of affecting other costs,” Mr. Macaulay said.

Village officials were open to reviewing the costs. The two boards did not come to an agreement.

Trustee Patricia K. “Trish” Wilson said reviewing the cost distribution made sense.

“You have to take a snapshot of the last several years,” she said. “Let’s see what it looks like in black and white.”

Code Enforcement Officer Gregory C. Fregoe said Tuesday he did not mind if the two boards revisited distributing the office costs, so long as it doesn’t affect the services he must provide. In his opinion, however, the 50/50 split works fine, as it allows his office to work on whatever problems are most important in Massena that day, whether it be village or town.

“If it isn’t broke, why fix it?” he asked.

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