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Village trims tax levy increase down to 8.6 percent

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MASSENA - Village trustees met Tuesday night to continue work on their 2014-2015 budget proposal and trimmed the tax levy increase from 9.7 to 8.6 percent by cutting more than $58,000 from the village’s Department of Public Works budget.

“The only thing we can do is say, ‘We are not going to repair some streets,’” Trustee Timothy J. Ahlfeld said, adding that portion of the budget was pretty much the only area where he saw any room to cut. “How much latitude do we have? If instead of doing say eight to nine streets, we said, ‘Let’s only do four,’ How much is that going to save us?”

Mayor James F. Hidy said he would prefer to look at it from the angle of which streets need repairs the most, rather than looking at it from a financial standpoint, something that Department of Public Works Superintendent Hassan A. Fayad said wasn’t as easy as it sounds.

“Let’s not go on cost. Let’s go on which streets need it to most,” Mr. Hidy said.

Mr. Fayad replied, “I don’t pick streets that are in good shape to overlay. The streets are in atrocious condition right now.”

Mr. Fayad also noted that of the $320,000 budgeted for road construction, $220,000 is in the form of state aid known as CHIPS.

Village Treasurer Julie Sharlow said the figure that made it into Mr. Hidy’s budget proposal was already cut from the $320,105 to the $285,159 that appeared in Mr. Hidy’s budget proposal.

Ultimately Mr. Ahlfeld recommended reducing that figure down to $235,000.

“My thought process is visit the Auminum Trail,” he said. “I would rather see us sink money into the streets we have right now than that thing,” he said referring to paving that was scheduled for a small section of land just off Liberty Avenue located adjacent to the trail.

After board members agreed to trim $50,159 from the road construction portion of the budget, they also agreed to cut, $8,311 from the personal services portion of the park maintenance budget, an item in the budget that has consistently came in under budget.

“Which project am I not doing?” Mr. Fayad asked.

Trustee Francis J. Carvel said, “That’s for you to decide. If we gave you $40,000, you would decide what got added in.”

The board also discussed tearing down the wooden playground on Bridges Avenue.

“It’s become more of a hazard than it has a play place for kids,” Mr. Hidy said.

Mr. Ahlfeld interjected, “Then take it down.”

By eliminating that playground, which would be torn down by the village’s employees, the hope is that some money could be saved in park maintenance.

Mr. Carvel suggested trimming the village’s snow removal budget, but that suggestion received little support and was never acted on.

“We had a pretty hard winter this year and even so, it looks like we’re going to have $62,000 left in there,” he said ,referring to the $158,000 budget line.

“If we’ve got $60,000 left over after a winter like this, do we really need that much money in the account? Can’t we take $50,000 out of that?” he asked.

Mr. Carvel also suggested eliminating the village engineer’s post from the budget, although he did not say how much money that would save. That led to an exchange between Mr. Carvel and Mr. Fayader.

“Every time we have a project we have to go out and hire an engineer,” Mr. Carvel said.

“When Mr. Carvel was working as a foreman, he had no problem having an engineer down there,” Mr. Fayad replied. “He had no problem, because they were his buddies.”

Mr. Carvel countered, “That’s one job that no value to this village.”

Mr. Hidy then asked Mr. Fayad and Mr. Carvel to “calm down,” as both men had raised their voices during the exchange.

“If you don’t want to cut anything, just say, ‘Don’t cut anything,’ and we’ll walk out of here leaving the status quo,” Mr. Carvel said. “Why are we wasting our time?”

Following the meeting, Ms. Sharlow said the $58,470 in cuts to the DPW budget is equal to a 1.1 percent decrease in the village’s total budget, bringing the budget down to $15,413,407.

While the trustees discussed the fire department budget and made no changes Monday evening, leaving it at the $628,394 proposed by the mayor, Chief Ted Krywanczyk spoke to the board Tuesday to inquire about having some money added back to the budget for the department’s volunteers.

This year’s fire department budget is an increase of $15,988 over what they received this year.

Mr. Krywanczyk asked the board for money to purchase additional carbon fiber oxygen tanks for the department.

“When you’re in a 500 degree room with a heavy bottle on and there is someone else with a lighter bottle on, you’re going to get a lot more out of the firefighter with the lighter bottle,” he said.

The department had requested $7,047 to purchase nine of the lighter tanks.

“Instead of getting nine, could we maybe get five or four?” he asked. “The thing I look at is how can I help my firefighters with safety and this is one way I can do that. Everything keeps getting cut, but at some point safety has to come into play.”

Mr. Hidy said the board would take Mr. Krywanczyk’s presentation into consideration, but he stressed even if the department is not able to purchase any of the carbon fiber bottles this year, that does not mean the village is not concerned about the safety of its firefighters.

“I want to emphasize safety is number one for us,” he said. “In our mind the other ones (aluminum bottles) are adequate. Right now, because of where we are in this budget, they are adequate. If it works and it fits, it’s staying there.”

Mr. Hidy continued, “I would like to say we’ve got GM here, Reynolds here and Alcoa here, and they’re all fat and happy. Then I could give you whatever you wanted.”

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