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Massena budget passed despite criticism of Hidy’s pay hike

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MASSENA — Village officials have passed the 2013-14 budget, despite the objections of some residents and village trustees who feel the mayor and trustees should not receive substantial pay raises.

The board voted 3-1 to adopt the budget, with Trustee Francis J. Carvel casting the dissenting vote.

Under the 2013-14 budget, the tax rate would increase by about 4 percent for most village residents. Trustee Timothy J. Ahlfeld was excused from the budget session.

The tax rate for village property owners in the town of Massena would increase from $14.08 per $1,000 of assessed valuation to $14.62, a 6.5 percent increase. That means a Massena property assessed at $100,000 would have a tax bill $54 higher than last year.

For village property owners in the town of Louisville, the rate will increase by 5 cents to $15.36 per $1,000. A Louisville homeowner whose assessment remains level at $100,000 will pay $5 more in taxes than a year ago.

Mr. Carvel said he voted against the budget because he disapproves of the high-percentage salary increases for Mayor James F. Hidy and each of the village trustees. The new budget includes a 50 percent increase in the four trustees’ salaries, from $4,000 to $6 ,000, and a 41.7 percent increase in the mayor’s salary, from $12,000 to $17,000.

Mr. Carvel’s feelings were shared by Trustee Patricia K. Wilson, former village mayor and resident Charles R. Boots and resident Cheryl Holmes.

“You think you earned it, but in other circles they’re saying you don’t. If you had a vote, I think it’d be turned down immediately,” Mr. Boots said to Mr. Hidy.

Ms. Wilson made a motion to strike down the salary increases for Mr. Hidy and the trustees, but the vote was tied, with Mr. Hidy and Trustee Albert C. “Herb” Deshaies voting to keep the pay hikes.

Trustees pointed out the proposed pay raise of $2,000 per trustee is somewhat misleading since trustees took a 20 percent pay cut in 2010 in an effort to reduce spending; however, because other proposals to cut spending were shot down in that budget process, the pay cut had little effect on spending as a whole.

During that year, trustees’ salaries dropped from $5,000 to $4,000, and then-Mayor Randy G. Delosh’s salary dropped from $15,000 to $12,000.

Mr. Deshaies said he felt the increase was fair based on the amount of work trustees put in. “We agreed to take this cut and then all of a sudden everyone else gets a raise. If you want to do this for nothing, fine,” he said to Ms. Wilson and Mr. Carvel.

Residents were hardly swayed by that point, and directed most of their criticism of the pay hikes toward Mr. Hidy.

“I was extremely disturbed when I saw that you’re looking to get a 40 percent salary increase, when there’s nothing in the north country,” Ms. Holmes said. “When 28 people just lost their jobs at Massena Central School, and you’re asking for a salary increase.”

Ms. Holmes said she has to work two jobs to get by, and she feels that residents are being overtaxed, that the region is struggling economically and that because of these fiscal woes, many residents are leaving Massena.

She said she believes that in these difficult financial times, Mr. Hidy doesn’t need a $5,000 salary increase.

“It’s got to stop somewhere, and frankly it disturbs me,” she said.

Mr. Hidy said his post is a “24-hour job” and listed off the many functions, meetings and responsibilities that he has to handle as mayor.

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