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Macaulay proposes additional Massena budget cuts

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MASSENA - Councilman John F. Macaulay proposed a series of cuts Wednesday night in an attempt to lower a proposed town property tax increase next year.

Supervisor Joseph D. Gray’s original 2013 proposal called for a tax levy increase of $725,000 and funding cuts to the Massena Public Library and most outside agencies, like the Massena Humane Society, Meals on Wheels and Greater Massena Chamber of Commerce.

The proposed tax rate increase for those inside the village under Mr. Gray’s proposalwas $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.

The Massena Town Council has been mulling ways to lower that proposed increase at budget workshops throughout October. At Wednesday’s workshop, Mr. Macaulay presented a plan which would collect over $300,000 less in property taxes than Mr. Gray originally proposed. Part of that savings would be realized by using additional fund balance, while the remainder would be through additional cuts. Officials did not have the tax rate calculated for the adjusted levy in Mr. Macaulay’s plan on Wednesday night.

Mr. Macaulay’s changes include restoring the Business Development Corporation for a Greater Massena’s funding to $30,000 instead of the $60,000 proposed. The Massena Public Library would see an approximately $65,000 reduction on top of the $13,000 cut Mr. Gray had already proposed.

Most “discretionary spending,” including funding to outside agencies, would experience an additional 10 percent cut on top of Mr. Gray’s proposal, which had already included at least a 10 percent reduction to the chamber and other organizations. Mr. Macaulay’s plan did not call for any layoffs, but did cut $12,000 in personnel expenses to the library, which MPL’s board of Trustees will have to figure out how to implement.

In addition, the council would use $125,000 more from its largest source of fund balance than Mr. Gray had proposed. The state recommends municipalities retain enough unallocated fund balance to cover at least two months of operating expenses, which in Massena’s case is approximately $700,000, Bookkeeper Nancy A. Fregoe previously said.

Because of that, Mr. Gray proposed using $50,000 of the $779,347 in unallocated fund balance remaining, a fraction of the amount used in 2012, bringing the total amount of unallocated fund balance remaining down to $729,347 by the end of next year. Instead, Mr. Macaulay’s proposal would bring the total amount left down to just over $600,000 if the town is unable to under spend its budget next year.

“You’re rolling the dice, but I think it’s necessary,” Councilman Albert N. Nicola told Mr. Macaulay. “I think it’s a risk you have to take.”

The town board did not approve the modifications proposed Wednesday night, but plan to revisit them at another budget workshop on Monday. Mr. Macaulay said the proposed cuts to non-mandated spending were necessary.

“Where else can you cut?” he asked. “It hit the school district. It hit the county, state and federal governments. We’re not immune.”

“This is the worst I’ve ever seen since I’ve been on the board,” Councilman Charles A. Raiti said.

Some type of tax increase is still likely next year, Mr. Nicola said. Next year’s increase will be necessary as opposed to previous years when the town board avoided one, he said.

“I’ve never been an advocate of raising taxes just to raise them,” Mr. Nicola said. “If you don’t have to raise taxes, why would you?”

At Wednesday’s workshop, the council also met with officials from the chamber of commerce and humane society.

Humane society officials said they understood the budget situation was in, but warned of the potential impact cuts could have.

“We obviously wouldn’t be able to take in as many animals,” board member Marcy Ashley Gray said of a potential cut.

The council plans to finalize its spending plan in the next few weeks.

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