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Hidy responds to criticism from former village officials

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MASSENA - Massena Mayor James F. Hidy went on the offensive Wednesday, a day after taking heavy fire at Tuesday night’s village board from two former village board members that raised their concerns with a tentative 2014-15 spending plan that calls for a 9.7 percent tax levy hike.

Mr. Hidy said Wednesday former Mayor Charles R. “Charlie” Boots, who served as mayor from 1987 through 1998, held office during a time when the economy was much different than it is today.

Mr. Hidy had refused to answer specific questions raised by former Trustee Andrew Szarka at Tuesday night’s meeting, but he offered some insight into the budget building process Wednesday.

“When the proposals from the department heads were submitted to me, our tax levy would have been over 18 percent,” Mr. Hidy said. “Obviously 18 percent was not acceptable and after meeting with the department heads and further conducting a review of the budget line by line we were able to get the increase into single digits.”

Mr. Hidy said that Mr. Boots, of all people, should understand the challenges of crafting a village budget.

“It doesn’t take a genius to realize that now, more than 15 years after he left office, costs have escalated all across the country,” he said. “One only has to go to the gas pumps to realize that.”

Mr. Hidy also said Mr. Boots should look in the mirror when complaining about the budget, noting Mr. Boots was a strong advocate for eliminating the village administrator and also signed the contract that initiated the manning clause, which outlined staffing requirements for the village police department.

“That (the manning clause) has cost the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Mr. Hidy said.

Both Mr. Szarka and Mr. Boots also criticized the salaries received by the mayor and his trustees. Under his proposal, which does not increase salaries from their current levels, Mr. Hidy will earn a salary of $17,000 with trustees each earning $6,000. While this is more than either man earned while they were in office, Mr. Hidy said both he and the trustees have more work today than they did in the past when Massena had a village administrator. There was not a village administrator when Mr. Boots served as mayor.

“Today we’re dealing with a multitude of unfunded mandates, a crippled economy and the lack of a revenue stream that was present during Mr. Boots’s tenure,” he said.

Mr. Hidy also said, if one was looking to make an impact in the budget, his salary and the salary of the village trustees would not be the place to cut.

“The salaries of this board, which Mr. Boots and Mr. Szarka questioned, are miniscule when compared to the overall cost of operating the village,” Mr. Hidy said, noting that when Mr. Szarka said the mayor of San Antonio received a salary of $3,480 his numbers were somewhat misleading.

“All he does is attend meetings,” Mr. Hidy said, noting San Antonio also has a city manager who earns a salary of $355,000 and a deputy city manager with a salary of $200,000.

“So there’s $555,000 in salaries to run the city,” Mr. Hidy said, adding, “Someone has to run the village.”

Mr. Hidy also noted that his budget proposal is just that - a proposal and the village has yet to adopt its final budget.

To reach that point, a series of budget workshops have been scheduled, including, April 7, 8 , 11 and 22 at 5 p.m. A fifth workshop has also been tentatively scheduled, if needed, for April 29 at 5 p.m.

Attempts to reach Mr. Boots for comment were unsuccessful.

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