Tupper passes village budget

TUPPER LAKE – The village board passed its budget with a lower tax rate increase than the preliminary budget had.

The tax levy increase in the final budget is 2.16 percent, down from the 2.84 percent tax levy increase in the previously proposed budget.

The tax rate increase was estimated at 38 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value in the proposed village budget. The final adjusted tax rate increase is 29 cents per $1,000.

At a special budget meeting Wednesday, Mayor Paul Maroun said the biggest savings for the village came by way of a $20,000 grant recently acquired from the Franklin County Tourism Advisory Committee. That money will go toward an $80,000, three-year marketing and destination planning contract with the Lake Placid-based Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism.

The town and village boards both agreed to an even-split payment agreement. That means any grant money obtained by either municipality would be taken off the top of the total cost of the ROOST contract.

So far, that total keeps getting lower. The village is redirecting $30,000 from other grant monies to the contract, and the Piercefield town board passed a resolution in February, saying it would contribute $5,000 annually for three years toward hiring a destination marketing organization like ROOST. With that money added to the newly acquired TAC grant, the town and village would each be responsible for $12,500 of the ROOST contract this year.

There were two other big issues with the proposed budget that were briefly addressed at the meeting: Amell Lane and the filling of a vacant full-time Tupper Lake police officer position.

A debate on whether the village should pave Amell Lane has gone on since Roger Amell and his father bought the land in the Junction neighborhood and developed it with houses a little more than a decade ago. They never paved the road, and residents there have complained that the street is too covered in potholes for school buses and mail carriers to drive down it. Last year, Amell – who was Tupper Lake town supervisor from 2006 until January – asked the village to pave and maintain it.

In the end, the trustees kept $21,000 in the budget for paving Amell Lane, a project some residents have argued against.

Most recently, two residents who attended an April 14 meeting, Jim Moody and Ron LaScala, questioned the board on its inclusion of work on Amell Lane in the public works budget.

Maroun has said the Amell Lane project needs to be included “just in case” the village decides to pave it, while Moody and LaScala contend it is a private road and the village should instead put that money toward repairing public roads.

“We didn’t take Amell Lane out, but that doesn’t mean the money can’t be shifted,” Maroun said at Wednesday’s meeting in response to a question from LaScala. “We’re going to put it somewhere in the budget, but we may not do it. He has to give us a survey or we’re not going to consider it.”

Maroun said the survey would have to ensure that the land to be paved is not on private property after all.

The village board members shaved $26,700 off of various equipment purchases, repairs and maintenance appropriations in the village police and fire department budgets to cover hiring a part-time police officer.

A good chunk of the $26,700 was found by cutting $10,000 in overtime from the police department’s budget, bringing that funding down to $32,400. The village has spent $44,000 on police overtime in the 2012-13 budget.

The board realized the community’s interest in filling the officer position when nearly 50 people packed the village courtroom during the public budget meeting April 14. About half of those in attendance voiced their concerns about the village’s tentative budget cutting an existing position from the village police force.

The position in question was held by Jason Amell, an officer who left on medical leave in December 2012 after 12 years of service. He never returned to work, and until last week the village was paying his salary and benefits, totaling about $65,000.

Proulx requested that position be filled once the new village budget begins in May.

Maroun said the search for a part-time officer would begin immediately.

Including Proulx, the police department currently has eight full-time employees and one part-time employee. Annual pay for a starting officer is $36,000. That gets bumped up $1,000 after a year. An additional $6,000 is added to that after the second year, bringing the salary up to $43,000.

With benefits and salary, a new village officer with a single person’s insurance plan costs the village about $65,000. One with a family health plan costs about $80,000.