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Massena may trim BDC funding

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MASSENA - It was an anomaly in Supervisor Joseph D. Gray’s budget proposal: a 100 percent or $30,000 increase to the Business Development Corporation for a Greater Massena.

But a difficult budget year may prompt the Massena Town Council to reconsider its funding commitment to the BDC at a workshop tomorrow.

In August, the town council voted 3-1, with Mr. Macaulay dissenting and Councilman Robert J. Cunningham absent, to commit to $60,000 for the next two years to the BDC. The economic development agency needed to know whether it should begin the search for a new executive director to replace Jason A. Clark and wanted assurances of adequate funding before doing so, officials previously said.

The town and village each currently provide $30,000 to the jointly funded economic development agency. But the BDC’s annual budget is approximately $130,000, and if current spending patterns continue, the organization could run out of reserves by 2014, officials said. The village Board of Trustees also pledged to provide the BDC with additional support, but opted not to officially vote on a funding increase.

The $60,000 equals the town funding provided to the BDC in 2010, but is double what was funded in 2011 and 2012. At a meeting last week, Mr. Gray suggested lowering that proposed number in light of cuts made to other agencies and the potential tax increase. He does not have a definite amount for the BDC in mind yet.

“It was obvious in our discussions that all options are on the table in order to deal with this budget problem,” Mr. Gray said.

Mr. Gray’s proposal includes increasing the property tax levy by more than $725,000 and cutting funding to most outside agencies; the Massena Humane Society, Massena Meals on Wheels and the Greater Massena Chamber of Commerce were cut by at least 10 percent in Mr. Gray’s plan. The chamber will see its funding reduced by 40 percent, or $6,000, from $15,000 to $9,000, while the humane society would see a $6,000 cut, from $53,500 to 47,500.

The council may pursue additional cuts to the Massena Public Library on top of the proposed $13,000 reduction proposed by Mr. Gray, which could result in less hours open. In addition, Mr. Gray said he took $100,000 from the Massena Rescue Squad’s fund balance, more than he originally planned. The council may have to change its mind on the BDC funding as well, he said.

BDC Board President Daniel S. Pease said the BDC will be able to survive if the town can’t fund it at $60,000 next year. The BDC still appreciates the support shown by the town and village boards for the future of the entity at the meeting last summer, he said.

“I think the town is in a tough position,” Mr. Pease said. “I recognize that they have some tough decisions to make.”

Mr. Pease said he hoped the BDC would not have to spend its reserves on overhead costs and could instead use it to invest in economic development projects.

“But the budget crisis is what it is and we’ll do what we have to,” he said.

The town council will hold a budget workshop at 4 p.m. Wednesday, followed by a regularly scheduled monthly meeting at 5:30. The BDC’s Board of Directors will hold an executive session at 3:45 p.m. Wednesday; Mr. Pease said that meeting was related to potentially hiring a new executive director, not the possible change in funding.

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