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Town officials ask for change in contributions for joint funding agreements

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MASSENA - When it comes to providing joint funding to organizations like the Massena Recreation Department, town officials say the village should be picking up a larger share of the funding because they’re currently not including West Massena in their assessed value.

That area, which begins around Dover Street, is in the village limits, but is part of the town of Louisville rather the town of Massena.

Based on current assessments, the village currently contributes 60 percent and the town 40 percent to entities such as the Recreation Department.

But Town Supervisor Joseph D. Gray said during a joint meeting between the town and village this week that, because the village has the option to have more assessed value with the addition of West Massena, the split should change. Councilman John F. Macaulay suggested it was more equitable at 37 percent for the town and 63 percent for the village.

Mr. Macaulay said the issue came up when they were looking at joint agreements and diminishing assessments in the town. That’s when they discovered that the village was not including West Massena in its assessed value.

“This was a complete surprise to me and the rest of the town board. We didn’t realize you did not include West Massena in the assessment split. We discovered, when we keep talking about a 60-40 split based on assessment, the village’s figure does include the portion in the town of Louisville. We feel it should. We believe that’s part of the village and should be included in assessment calculations,” Mr. Gray said.

“It amounts to real money. We also believe cooperative agreements should also share the burden,” he said.

“I don’t think it’s ever been broached,” Councilman Albert N. Nicola said, noting that with industries such as Alcoa and Reynolds, the town had footed “the lion’s share.”

But times have changed, according to Mr. Nicola.

“When the Recreation Commission was formed, you didn’t have anywhere near the assessed value you have now. It just slipped through the cracks,” he said.

Councilmen said it was a matter of equity in the joint agreement, which specifies that the costs are split by assessed value.

“If you don’t include West Massena, village taxpayers pay a lower tax rate than the town outside. It doesn’t make sense,” Mr. Macaulay said, suggesting that a revised split would mean that everyone in the village and town would pay their “fair share” toward costs. “I don’t know how anybody can argue that.”

Mr. Gray said that, not including West Massena, the village is “not shouldering their share of the responsibility for recreation.”

“It’s not a big change in the formula, but it’s a lot of assessment. We believe it should be included,” he said.

In fact, Mr. Gray said, the same formula should apply to all departments that are jointly funded, such as the code enforcement office.

“We always have to be mindful, if the burden isn’t shared equally from our standpoint, from the numbers, it puts an unnecessary burden on the town of Massena outside the village,” he said.

Village officials asked for time to research the issue. Village Trustee Timothy Ahlfeld acknowledged the argument made by town board members seemed to make sense.

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