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Massena mayor doesn’t think village budget will stay under tax cap

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MASSENA — Although Mayor James F. Hidy said he is very early in the 2014-15 budget-crafting process, he said that he doesn’t think it’s going to be possible for the village’s final budget to come in under the state’s 2 percent property tax cap.

“After some discussions with the treasurer (Julie Sharlow) and the projected loss of revenue from property taxes due to decreased assessments and the uncertainty of the county’s sales tax distribution amounts, along with some unforeseen expenditures this year, I don’t see the village holding true to the 2 percent property tax cap as we have done over the past two years.”

The Massena mayor said the village, for example, will see its workers’ compensation payment skyrocket from $196,000 in 2013 to $319,000 in 2014. He also said the village will need to purchase equipment for a new fire truck and has to address aging police vehicles with high mileage as well as Department of Public Works equipment that needs to be replaced.

“We had four pieces of equipment that broke down this winter at virtually the same time. We have been using Band-Aid solutions to keep up our equipment. We’re still going to provide the service so we have to have the equipment to do so,” he said.

Mr. Hidy said he is also reviewing sales tax revenues as the community — and the county — gear up for the closure of the Alcoa East plant and a reduction of manufacturing jobs in the region. “Sales tax could be up this year; it could be down. It is always a crap shoot. Are people going to be more cautious about spending due to the uncertainties of the economy?” he asked.

Massena Assessor Michael Ward said he did not anticipate assessment reductions in the coming year.

Mr. Hidy said it’s too early to tell just how far over the cap the village will go and said review of the budget with individual departments will start next week.

“After those initial reviews with the department heads, we’ll determine a course of action to take with regard to expenditures versus revenue,” he said

The village tax rate was $14.48 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. West Massena residents living inside the village boundaries but in the town of Louisville have a tax rate of $15.24 per $1,000.

Village Treasurer Julie Sharlow said a 1 percent increase in the tax rate raised $50,304 in the 2013-14 fiscal year. A $1 per $1,000 hike would have generated an additional $357,210 for the village coffers.

The mayor said he will then work on putting everything together and present the board with a draft of his budget “on or before March 20.”

The village will then hold a hearing on the budget and begin finalizing the document through a series of work sessions.

“We’re going to do our best to make the necessary cuts, while maintaining the same level of services we have been providing,” Mr. Hidy said. He is not expecting any layoffs.

Although it may be a difficult budget season, he’s optimistic.

“We’re going to work through this storm and I believe better times are on the horizon,” he said.

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