MASSENA - Mayor James F. Hidy expressed disappointment with town officials for significantly reducing its funding for the Greater Massena Chamber of Commerce.
In its 2013 budget, the town reduced its chamber contribution from $10,000 to $8,100. However, the town previously provided additional funding for the chamber with the gaming compact money it received from the St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Council. In 2011, the town provided approximately $22,000 toward the chamber, and when the town stopped receiving the gaming compact money in 2012, its contribution to the chamber dropped to $10,000.
Meanwhile, the village has contributed approximately $18,000 per year to the chamber over the last two years, according to Village Clerk Patti Dumas.
Mr. Hidy sees the chamber of commerce as a vital economic engine for both the town and village and believes the town should make a contribution thats equal to the village.
The chamber is an entity that promotes events and functions that help bring revenue into our area, Mr. Hidy said. I think both the village and town boards should view it as essential to the municipality that we continue to fund the chamber in a responsible manner. I think we have a responsibility to keep funding it 50-50 (between the town and village).
Town Councilman John F. Macaulay blasted the mayor, saying Mr. Hidy was too misinformed on the subject to hold such a position and that by doing so he was causing unnecessary friction in the local government offices.
If (Mr. Hidy is) complaining then he doesnt know the facts, Mr. Macaulay said. Hes got a lot of ways to piss people off, and hes doing it again.
The town has a statute in place that limits its contributions to the chamber at $10,000, according to Mr. Macaulay and Supervisor Joseph D. Gray. Several years ago town officials held a referendum to raise the limit for its contribution, but town voters chose to keep the $10,000 cap in place.
Were limited to $10,000 (in contributions to the chamber) by law. When we were receiving gaming compact money, we were able to go above and beyond our yearly contributions, Mr. Macaulay said.
In regards to $1,900 cut to the chambers budget, Mr. Macaulay said the board made cuts to every area it could in an effort to avoid higher property tax increases or exhausting its fund reserves.
We cut the chamber to $8,000 because everyone took cuts this year. We did what we had to, Mr. Macaulay said.
Chamber President Susan E. Stiles declined to comment on the budget cuts, saying she did not want to make a statement without first consulting the chambers board of directors.
Mr. Gray also challenged Mr. Hidys belief that the town should provide the same level of funding for the chamber as the village, noting the town has a much smaller population and generates much less revenue than the village. Mr. Gray also pointed out that redistribution of the countys sales tax caused the village to receive an additional $500,000 in sales tax that had previously gone to the town.
With that redistribution of wealth perhaps comes the redistribution of responsibility, Mr. Gray said.
Last week. town officials suggested the towns reduction in funding for the code enforcement office prompted Mr. Hidy to end that service outside the village, following the retirement of Code Enforcement Officer Gregory Fregoe and the allocation of his duties to Massena firefighters trained in code enforcement. Mr. Gray is concerned that with these actions Mr. Hidy has shown apathy for town residents who live outside the village.
Its easy to only look out for your constituents, (and) its easy to disregard people who dont vote for you. But you should look out for people in your own community, Mr. Gray said. Its this us versus them thing all the time, and its unfortunate.
Mr. Gray believes this disagreement is a result of too little communication between the village and town boards of Massena. They make their decisions and we make ours, without talking with each other, and the community suffers, he said. There needs to be one government for this community.