TUPPER LAKE — The village council passed a $3.4 million budget Thursday night, days after its first attempt to pass the budget failed.
The budget passed five days after the state deadline, but according to the state comptroller’s office, there are no repercussions for missing the budget deadline by a few days.
Board members had a few reasons not to put the budget to a vote last month. On Thursday, they resolved those reasons or set them aside to pass the budget.
Administrator Ron LaScala said at the time that he was not making a budget motion because he wanted to talk more about the city contributing more to the village for policing. Directors Leon Leblanc and Jason McClain had said they wanted the full board with director David “Haji” Maroun to vote. Maroun was at the meeting on Thursday.
LaScala entered Thursday’s meeting planning to vote against the budget because he wanted to talk about the police contract, but ultimately decided to move on and even offered to put the budget to a vote.
“I propose to adopt the budget even if I do not like it”, LaScala said.
The vote to approve the budget was unanimous.
At Thursday’s meeting, Mayor Paul Maroun said he could arrange a meeting with the city and tell them the village could not continue to pay for all emergency services. But first, he said, the village had to get its budget through.
LaScala said the city contributing more to the police contract would be “Soften the Blow” of the village raising taxes. He said he had been pushing for it for some time and felt the rest of the village council hadn’t worked to push either.
McClain said the board wasn’t just passing this budget because it didn’t want to get the job done. He said he sees nowhere else the village can reduce its expenses and that rising prices are “just the cost of doing business.”
He said he regretted that the public did not attend more budget hearings and be more involved in the process before the budgets are passed.
“The community only speaks after we have made a decision, and then they criticize what we have defined”, McClain said.
He said everyone on the board cared about taxpayers.
The final budget
Maroun said he was able to find some more money from the state’s Consolidated Local Streets and Highways Improvement Program and add funds to the budget for some fire department equipment. volunteer from Tupper Lake.
Due to the new money, the expenses increased slightly, but the tax levy also decreased slightly. This reduced the tax rate per $1,000 of assessed value by two cents.
The final tax rate per $1,000 of assessed value is $0.80, a 5.06% tax rate increase from last year.
The $3.4 million budget has an increase in spending of 4.87%, or $157,801 more than last year.
This budget calls for $2.24 million in taxes to be collected from residents, also known as fiscal levies. This tax levy exceeds the state tax levy cap by $67,222, or 5.097%. The state tax cap is 1.02% this year for Tupper Lake. This is the second year in a row that the village budget has exceeded the ceiling.
Policy contract discussion
On Thursday, LaScala said Tupper Lake is “a community” and he wants everyone to contribute to the police fund. He is pushing for equalized rates for police protection between town and village residents, based on estimated home values.
He said that with large city camps and village apartments, “It is the richest who pay the least” towards the police budget.
LaScala said he thought the people of the village were “pay a lot of extra money to live inside an invisible line” because city residents get the same services at a lower cost.
Village taxes will become unaffordable for families, he said, and he believes that if the city doesn’t pay more for policing, the village won’t be able to afford to keep it going indefinitely.
The police department accounts for most of the village budget.
He said the village removing police stations to stay under the tax cap creates a “endless cycle of burnout.”
Paul Maroun agreed – if the town can’t add a little more expense to its taxpayers, the village can’t continue to provide police services to him at a financial loss, especially when the hours of service have been cut in half in due to lack of staff.
“It’s not fair to the taxpayers of the village”, said Paul Maroun.
Last month, TLPD Chief Eric Proulx announced that his service was reducing its night patrol shift due to a lack of active officers and will only be able to have officers on duty from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. .
The police contract debate came to a head at a village board meeting two weeks ago, when acting town supervisor Mary Fontana was on hand to discuss the Tupper event. Lake Field Day that the city is planning. LaScala used the visit to address the issue of the police contract, but Fontana said now was neither the time nor the place without the rest of his board. The discussion ignited.
On Thursday, McClain said he agreed with LaScala that Tupper Lake is “a community” and that city and town residents should pay equal rates on the police department, but he felt that LaScala sometimes addresses the issue “inappropriately”.
He said LaScala is “insistent and strong.” He doesn’t always agree with his methods, but he thinks LaScala’s arguments are right.
McClain said he had been on the village council for two years and had never had this discussion with the town. Before being elected, he said he “I always had the impression that the inhabitants of the city lived from the village.”
LaScala said he wasn’t quite sure how to strike up a conversation.
The village invests a lot of money in the services it provides to the town, he said, and he said it hurts to be on the village council, to fight and fight to maintain the taxes at a lower level, even if they far exceed the tax cap, and see the city lower or maintain its tax rates.
He accused the city of “pilfering” village services.
McClain said the village needs to pass this budget. There’s money in there for hiring a new cop. That doesn’t help the department’s current low staffing, but he said money could be saved for future years when hiring increases.
LaScala wants all of the town and village boards to meet and discuss the contract.
Paul Maroun said the city will not be able to consider any changes until it prepares its budget later this year.
LaScala is resigned to believing that nothing will ever change with the contract. He said he had been asking for more contributions for years and had never done so. But other council members were more optimistic that the city could increase its contribution.