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Cuts to police budget bring proposed levy increase down to 6.3 percent

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MASSENA - The village’s police chief has trimmed his proposed spending plan for 2014-15 and the savings will result in the tentative tax levy increase dropping from 8.6 percent tax levy increase down to a 6.3 percent increase.

At the urging of village officials, Massena Police Chief Timmy J. Currier reviewed his budget prior to Friday evening’s meeting, coming up with a proposal that trimmed the department’s expenses by $125,444.

“Throughout the last few weeks, I have held several meetings with my management team, the union and various staff members to look at ways to reduce this budget,” he said. “Frankly, it wasn’t easy but, I have identified more than $125,000 in cuts that can happen,” he said.

Mr. Currier’s proposed cuts came in the form of $38,054 from the department’s equipment budget and $87,390 from the department’s personnel budget.

“Personnel or major pieces of equipment are really the only ways we can save money,” Mr. Currier said.

The money cut from the department’s equipment budget was going to be used to purchase a new vehicle, but Mr. Currier said he felt like that purchase could be pushed back for a year.

“I have cut the purchase of the police car that was allocated for. We are working on ways to make it through with our current fleet,” he said, adding two of the department’s vehicles have more than 100,000 miles on their odometers.

The bulk of the personnel savings come from the retirement of a long-time officer and the salary savings received by filling the position with an “entry level” officer. Mr. Currier said the difference in salary translates to $31,000 in savings, with additional savings coming from adjustments he made to the overtime budget.

“That retirement lowered the average rates of pay, which we base overtime projections on, so each of those lines in the budget were adjusted accordingly,” Mr. Currier said, adding he also trimmed the department’s training budget by $12.225.

In the end, the department’s 2014-2015 budget ends up totaling $1,934,902 or $2,142 less than the current year’s spending plan.

The treasurer’s budget was discussed briefly and remained unchanged from the mayor’s proposal, and while the personnel services line was increased by 10.4 percent, Treasurer Julie Sharlow explained that she’s not actually receiving a 10.4 percent raise.

This year she said her budget included money for a vacation buyout, as well as overtime.

“That has not been included in this budget in the past,” she said.

The treasurer’s total budget will increase from $45,610 to $50,142.

The village attorney’s line was increased from $30,000 to $37,000 in the mayor’s proposal and remained unchanged Friday night.

Ms. Sharlow said her reason for budgeting the increase was the village is projected to exceed that line item this year, just as it did last year.

While the budget was not changed, Trustee Timothy J. Ahlfeld identified some ways that line could potentially be reduced. “There isn’t a reason (village attorney) Matt (McArdle) has to be at every meeting,” he said. “When we need him he’ll be there.”

Ms. Sharlow also shared a bit of good news with the board, noting the village will be receiving $24,000 in “Extreme Winter Aid.”

She said this money will be coming from a $40 million pool of money approved by the state Legislature in the budget it adopted earlier this month.

Mr. Ahlfeld suggested putting this money toward the $60,000 previously trimmed from the highway department’s road construction budget.

“What we took from him... this should go toward that,” he said, a statement that each of his fellow board members agreed with.

While a 6.3 percent increase is certainly lower than a 9.7 percent increase, Mr. Ahlfeld said he would like to see the budget decreased even more.

“Six point three percent is still too high,” he said, noting the village has at least one more budget workshop left.

“Rich (Recreation Director Richard Boprey) has made some changes in his budget, which are going to help us,” Mr. Ahlfeld said. “He’ll discuss that when we meet with him on the 22nd.”

The Massena Business Development Corporation (BDC) budget will also be discussed at that meeting.

Ms. Sharlow said the BDC had requested $60,000, but in the mayor’s proposal that number was decreased to $40,000, the same amount they received this year.

Former Mayor Charlie Boots said he would suggest trimming the BDC budget even more.

“Personally, I would say you should cut that,” he said suggesting the village trim the department’s allocation back to $30,000, where it was prior to this year. “I question today whether we’re getting anything from that.”

Mr. Boots also suggested going back to each of the village’s department heads and asking them to trim 5 or 6 percent from their budgets, something that may still happen, depending on where the budget stands at the close of the April 22 meeting.

Trustee Albert C. “Herb” Deshaies agreed.

“Sometime, some place, someone has to make a sacrifice,” he said.

Mr. Hidy though, said finding additional cuts are not going to be easy.

“What do you cut before you can’t provide the service?” he asked. “Do you not buy toilet paper?”

Mr. Boots jokingly responded, “Get a lot of magazines.”

Ms. Sharlow also noted one reason this year’s budget has been so difficult is the amount of fund balance available to use.

“If we were able to appropriate fund balance like we have in the past two years, we would be below where we were last year, but we don’t have it available to appropriate,” she said.

Ms. Sharlow said this year’s budget is only using $250,000 from fund balance compared to last year’s $572,937.

According to Ms. Sharlow’s projections, the village will have roughly $832,000 in its fund balance at the close of its fiscal year. When the $250,000 proposed in the budget is taken out, the village will be left with a fund balance of only $582,000.

“We should be at 10 percent of our expenses,” she said. “It should be $900,000.”

Mr. Ahlfeld said he realizes this year’s budget sessions haven’t been fun for anyone, but he’s hopeful that in the future the work they’re putting into this year’s budget will pay off.

“We can do the hard stuff now and it will be easier down the road,” he said.

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