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Chamber plots ways to raise money to offset possible cutbacks

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MASSENA - Facing a possible cutback in contributions from the town and village of Massena, members of the Greater Massena Chamber of Commerce’s Board of Directors plan to hold a retreat in November to talk about ways to generate more revenue.

The chamber receives $10,000 from the town and $15,000 from the village, but those contributions may decline if St. Lawrence County legislators decide to retain some of the sales tax revenue they have traditionally distributed to municipalities as a way to make up budget shortfalls.

“The county is proposing cutting our sales tax. That will affect what we spend,” Mayor James F. Hidy told the chamber board Thursday.

He said Treasurer Daniel E. Case has estimated the village has typically been receiving $700,000 in sales tax revenues from the county.

“He’s pretty much on target,” Mr. Hidy said.

Legislator Gregory M. Paquin, D-Massena, told Massena Town Board members Wednesday that the proposal aimed at stabilizing the county’s finances would mean a $589,272 loss in sales tax revenue to the village, and a $225,957 hit to the town. In total, the county would collect $6,824,079 in sales tax revenues originally intended for towns and villages.

With less sales tax revenue, Mr. Hidy said they would need to reexamine their budget and make cuts as necessary, including possible cuts in their contributions to organizations like the chamber.

Meanwhile, the chamber’s financial picture as the year winds down is already a source of concern for board members. Treasurer Chris Herrick said they lost $3,722.84 in August, although that’s less than the $5,420.45 loss they were looking at in August 2011.

The chamber’s net income for January through August was $21,407.21, compared to $4,414,52 for the same time frame in 2011.

Chamber Executive Director Michael J. Gleason said they lost some revenue at their last event, the Harvest Festival, because a storm that rolled through the area forced an early closure.

“We did take a hit. Revenues were down,” he said.

They have no revenue-generating events again for the remainder of the year following Saturday’s Wildlife Festival at the New York Power Authority’s Hawkins Point Visitor’s Center.

“The next four months are going to be tight,” Mr. Herrick said.

On the plus side, Mr. Gleason said, with their relocation from 50 Main St. to 16 Church St., the former Adath Israel synagogue, they’ll own their building and will no longer be responsible for rent. Any money they raise, he said, can be put toward building improvements.

They purchased the synagogue for $1 and have started the relocation process. They’ve been moving smaller items and town employees will be moving larger items to their new home on Monday.

“We’re going to have to manage the use of the building the best we can,” he said.

He noted they could use both sides of the building, which are currently configured as a kitchen and worship area.

“Penny (Pullmain, associate director) and I are talking about setting up a store. We’ve got the space, we’ve got the inventory,” Mr. Gleason said.

Ms. Pullmain said they’re also considering consignment sales at their new location. The Eisenhower Lock Gift Shop, which they operate over the summer, has many items on consignment.

“The vendors out there do very well,” Mr. Gleason said.

They’re also in the process of re-doing their website store to update pictures and information on the items they have available, he said.

Ms. Pullmain said the only drawback to operating a store at their new office is the hours.

“We’re only open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. It’s a tough time for people to come shopping. Maybe we should look at a Saturday,” she suggested.

Board President Eric J. Gustafson agreed, noting that opening on Saturdays during the holiday season could help with their fourth quarter cash flow.

No matter what, Mr. Gleason said they’ll need to look at how they’re doing business and make adjustments for the future, something they’ll discuss during their November retreat.

“There’s going to have to be a whole new way of doing business in the climate we’re in,” he said.

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