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Village board discusses budget, adds $400 for Massena Senior Citizens

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MASSENA - Several portions of the village’s near $15.5 million budget were reviewed by board members Monday night without any cuts being made to the spending plan.

In fact, following a presentation from the Massena Senior Citizens, board members agreed to add $400 to the club’s allocation.

The $400 addition, which would have a very minimal impact on the proposed 9.7 percent tax levy increase, brings the total village budget up to $15,471,877.

Mayor James F. Hidy said the club requested $5,000 and received $4,700 as part of the 2013-2014 spending plan. His proposal for 2014-2015 called for a $3,000 allocation to the club, noting he had no choice, but to decrease the amount of money given to the club by the village.

“The reason being, as everybody has to be aware, this is going to be a very tight year,” Mr. Hidy said. “We’re looking at every nickle. Every nickle is being scrutinized.”

Mr. Hidy also noted that after reviewing the senior citizen’s budget over the past several years he noticed it’s not unusual for them to have money left over at the end.

“We are so limited with what we can do with this money,” President Sylvia Despaw said. “That’s the reason we’re not spending the money, because we’re so limited as to how we can spend it.”

Village Trustee Patricia K. Wilson explained that state legislation limits what the village can allocate money for.

“It has to do with legislation,” she said. “I would imagine that’s why it’s set up that way.”

Mr. Hidy explained that the money can be used to help fund “educational trips.”

To date the club has expended $1,100 of its 2013-2014 allocation with another $1,000 expenditure expected.

“If we knew we had the excess to do it, we could do an extra trip,” Ms. Despaw said.

Executive Director Sheila Benn said she would like to see the club do “three or four trips,” noting the cost of trips has increased significantly in recent years.

“It’s $1,100 to go to Ottawa,” she said.

Club member Brian Schafer asked board members to consider adding an additional $1,000 to the club’s allocation.

“When you take a $5,000 budget and cut it to $3,700, that’s a 40 percent cut and we don’t think that’s fair,” he said. “How about you up it $1,000 so we can take that extra trip?”

“When you’re looking at low numbers, throw percentages out the window,” Trustee Timothy J. Ahlfeld said before suggesting the board add $400 to the group’s budget line.

“It’s a little bit more than what you were offered and a little less than what you would like,” he said.

Village board members also discusssed the budget for its code enforecement office, a spending plan that will decrease from $72,297 to $46,627.

“This item dropped $25,000 this year. Do you want to explain that, Jim?” asked Mr. Ahlfeld.

Mr. Hidy instead deferred to Fire Department Foreman Ken McGowan, who has been overseeing the department since the village decided last year to not hire a code enforcement officer.

“It’s because the fire department has taken over code enforcement duties,” Mr. McGowan said.

Mr. Ahlfeld replied. “I just wanted to get that on the record.”

The village court budget was reviewed with this year’s budget for the court remaining at the $73,602.86 proposed by Mr. Hidy. The 2013-2014 court budget came in at $71,212r.

Mr. Hidy said he had spoken with elected officials at the state level in an attempt to increase the percentage of revenue the village receives from money collected by fines and surchages.

“Every municipality collects a surchage. We get a portion of the fines, but with the surchage we get nothing back,” he said. “We get absolutely nothing out of that.”

Ms. Wilson agreed, noted that’s money being collected for the state at the village’s expense.

”We should be getting a portion of that (the surchage) back. Whether it’s half, a quarter or whatever,” Mr. Hidy said, adding that often times the surchage colleged by the state is an even larger amount than the fines themselves.

Village Justice Eric J. Gustafson said as a judge it’s not his job to be a budget officer or to comment on existing policies.“Judges get in trouble for that kind of thing,”he noted.

He did say though, “In most instances, the surchage is more than the fine. “I’m not a budget officer in court. I try not to let money influence my decisions.”

The Greater Massena Chamber of Commerce budget remained unchanged from the mayor’s proposal, which was the same as the 2013-2014 budget plan, giving the chamber $20,000.

While those representing the chamber at the meeting did not request additional funding, they did update trustees on the chamber’s activities.

“We have a major tourism effort going on, greater than we have in years,” Chamber President Mariam Catapano said. “The chamber feels very strongly that is an economic driver in this community.”

She continued, “If you go to a lot of websites out there, Massena is not represented on there. We just need to have the time to complete the paperwork to get us on those,” she said.

Ms. Catapano also said the chamber is working to rebuild its membership, with Director Kathleen Kelly-Ori spending each Wednesday out of the office meeting with businesses in the community.

“Every business in Massena should be a member of the chamber of commerce,” she said.

Ms. Catapano also said that this year the chamber will again be operating the gift shop at the Eisenhower Locks.

“We’re looking at the store and trying to beef it up,” Associate Director Penny Pullmain said.

Ms. Catapano also said that everyone in the community can help build up Massena without even spending any money.

“Everyone in this community has to be an ambassador for Massena and that’s something we need to work on as a chamber - training everyone to be positive about Massena,” she said.

The village also discussed the fire department’s budget, which too remained unchanged from the mayor’s proposal at $628,934. Mr. Hidy said the village budgeted $611,946 last year.

Mr. Hidy said the main reason for the increase was the need for new equipment and supplies, including turnout gear.

Following the discussion of these five department, Trustee Albert C. “Herb” Deshaies said he would like to see the tax levy increase decreased by at least 2 percent.

“How much would it take to knock this budget down 2 percent?” he asked.

Village Treasurer Julie Sharlow said in order to do that roughly $104,000 would have to be cut from the budget.

“It’s just about $52,000 for every 1 percent,” she said, to which Mr. Deshaies replied, “We better sharpen our pencils.”

While the village has several work sessions remaining including another one at 5 p.m. tonight and 5 p.m. Friday, he said he can’t envision $104,000 being cut from the budget.

“It’s going to be a 9 percent increase,” he said.

Mayor Hidy agreed.

“This is a pretty bare bones budget,” he said.

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