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Massena Town Council considers library cuts

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MASSENA — Cutting Massena Public Library hours is one option town officials are examining as they attempt to whittle down the large tax increase in next year’s town budget.

Supervisor Joseph D. Gray’s proposal includes increasing the property tax levy by more than $725,000 and cutting funding to most outside agencies, including the Massena Humane Society, Meals on Wheels and the Greater Massena Chamber of Commerce.

The proposed tax rate increase for those inside the village is $1.33 per $1,000 of assessed value, from $3.46 to $4.79, a 38.4 percent hike. For those outside the village, there is a proposed $1.32 increase, from $4.41 to $5.73, a 30 percent climb from the 2012 rate.

That means a property owner in the village with a parcel assessed at $90,000 would pay $119.70 more in town taxes than in 2012, while one outside the village with a parcel assessed at $90,000 would pay $118.80 more.

To reduce the tax rate increase to 10 percent would require approximately $534,000 in cuts to expenses inside the village and $477,000 to cuts outside, Councilman Charles A. Raiti said.

“We have to decide what we really want to pay for,” Mr. Raiti said. “There’s a lot of stuff in here that we’ve been able to pay for that we can’t.”

One option is to reduce the library’s hours from 57 to 40, Councilman John F. Macaulay said. He estimated the library could save $120,000 to $130,000 in personnel, heating and lighting costs by doing that; it budgeted $706,877 in property tax revenue in 2012.

“It’s something I thought we would never ask,” Mr. Macaulay said. “Unfortunately, in my opinion, we’re at a crossroads right now with what we can fund.”

Personnel expenses represent about 76 percent of the library’s budget, Mr. Macaulay said.

“We’ve got to cut personnel somehow,” he said. “The only other way you’re going to cut personnel is by reducing hours. I don’t know what else you’re going to do.”

The council made no final decisions Wednesday night and instead requested Library Director Elaine A. Dunne-Thayer and the library board of trustees discuss the idea and report back at next Wednesday’s budget workshop.

Town board members did not object to Mr. Macaulay’s proposal at Wednesday night’s meeting.

“John poses an interesting yet troubling scenario, but nonetheless, one we have to look at,” Mr. Gray said.

Councilman Robert J. Cunningham agreed; such a discussion is necessary because of the proposed tax increases, he said.

“It’s the reality,” he said.

At Wednesday’s budget workshop, the council agreed to change the town’s spring cleanup program next year. Instead of town highway crews driving house to house, property owners will have to drive to the county transfer station during an established period to drop off large trash.

The change hopefully will save money and cut down on the program’s abuse, Highway Superintendent Frank J. Diagostino said; town board members agreed.

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