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Massena Town Council considers library cuts

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MASSENA - Cutting Massena Public Library hours is one option officials are examining as they attempt to whittle down the proposed tax increase in next year’s town budget.

Supervisor Joseph D. Gray’s proposal includes increasing the property tax levy by more than $725,000 and cutting funding to most outside agencies, including the Massena Humane Society, Meals on Wheels and the Greater Massena Chamber of Commerce.

The proposed tax rate increase for those inside the village is $1.33 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, from $3.46 to $4.79, a 38.4 percent hike. For those outside the village, there is a proposed $1.32 increase, from $4.41 to $5.73, a 30 percent climb from the 2012 rate.

That means a property owner in the village with a parcel assessed at $90,000 would pay $119.70 more in town taxes than in 2012, while one outside the village with a parcel assessed at $90,000 would pay $118.80 more.

To reduce the tax rate increase to even 10 percent would require approximately $534,000 in cuts to expenses inside the village and another $477,000 to cuts outside, according to Councilman Charles A. Raiti.

“We have to decide what we really want to pay for,” Mr. Raiti said. “There’s a lot of stuff in here that we’ve been able to pay for that we can’t.”

One option is to reduce MPL’s hours from 57 to 40 hours, according to Councilman John F. Macaulay. He estimated the library could save between $120,000 and $130,000 in personnel, heating and lighting costs by doing that; MPL budgeted $706,877 in property tax revenue in 2012.

“It’s something I thought we would never ask,” Mr. Macaulay said. “Unfortunately, in my opinion, we’re at a crossroads right now with what we can fund.”

Personnel expenses represent approximately 76 percent of the library’s budget, Mr. Macaulay said.

“We’ve got to cut personnel somehow,” Mr. Macaulay said. “The only other way you’re going to cut personnel is by reducing hours. I don’t know what else you’re going to do.”

The council made no final decisions Wednesday night and instead requested MPL Director Elaine Dunne-Thayer and the library Board of Trustees discuss the idea and report back at next Wednesday’s budget workshop.

Town board members did not object to Mr. Macaulay’s proposal at Wednesday night’s meeting.

“John poses an interesting yet troubling scenario, but nonetheless, one we have to look at,” Mr. Gray said.

Councilman Robert J. Cunningham agreed; such a discussion is necessary because of the proposed tax increases, he said.

“It’s the reality,” he said.

At Wednesday’s budget workshop, the council agreed to change the town’s spring cleanup program next year. Instead of town highway crews driving house-to-house, property owners will have to drive to the county transfer station during an established time period to drop off large trash.

The change will hopefully save money and cut down on the abuse of the program, according to Highway Superintendent Frank Diagostino; town board members agreed.

Mr. Macaulay also proposed furloughing town highway staff during the summer months. The department has cut down on the amount of paving in recent years to save money, and Mr. Macaulay wondered if the town could reduce its staff during those months because of smaller amount of budgeted work.

But Mr. Diagostino said his staff are still very busy during that time frame even if they aren’t paving as many roads these days. Like MPL, the council instructed Mr. Diagostino to review his spending and report back at a subsequent meeting.

Mr. Raiti thanked Mr. Macaulay at the end of the meeting for introducing his ideas.

“John is right in thinking outside the box,” he said. “We have to reconsider how this government and services are going to be structured.”

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