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Tough budget year for Tupper Lake village

TUPPER LAKE — A public hearing on the village’s preliminary budget will be held today at 5 p.m. The village board has been working on a slim budget for the upcoming year, and more changes may be made before the budget is voted on.

Village Mayor Paul Maroun said the current tax levy and tax rate will likely be lower in the final version.

Currently, the preliminary budget proposes spending $3.3 million, a 4.5% increase of $140,500 from last year.

With this budget, the tax levy — the money collected from village taxpayers — would be $2.3 million, a 9.4% increase from last year.

This represents an 8.9% tax rate increase, an increase of $1.43 per every $1,000 of assessed property value. The current tax rate is $14.52 per $1,000.

“Those figures will absolutely be cut,” Maroun said.

Maroun said he expects cuts to be made throughout the budget.

The budget started with an 8.9% increase in spending, much too high, he said. By Wednesday the board had knocked that down to a 4% increase between cuts and revenue additions, around a $60,000 reduction, Maroun said. But there are still more adjustments to be made.

“I would be able to live with a 3% increase in the (tax levy),” Maroun said.

This year the village’s tax levy increase is capped by the state at 1.01%, or a $22,000 increase, Maroun said. The village board will most likely need to vote to exceed the tax cap.

“It’s impossible. It’s an unrealistic number. … One percent is just not enough to get us through,” he said. “We’ve got to provide services to everybody. Nobody wants cuts. … Everybody wants new sidewalks and roads.”

Maroun said the things the village spends on rise in price every year, often at rates much higher than the tax cap.

Retirement increased 2% last year, he said, and piping bought by the highway department went up 40% to 90%.

“I’ve said it from the beginning. It’s a terrible law,” Maroun said.

Because of this, he expects to exceed the tax cap, but also not spend on extra material and services.

“There’s very few places to cut,” Maroun said. “There’s things that we just can’t afford this year.”

Maroun said he does not yet know how much COVID-19 relief aid the village will receive from the federal government. He also does not know how it can be spent.

He knows the village cannot spend the aid money to directly reduce taxes, but it can spend it on water, sewer and recreational projects, which might reduce what local taxpayers would otherwise pay for.

A statewide moratorium on collecting overdue electric bills with interest has also reduced revenue as some people are not making those monthly payments, Maroun said.

Maroun said some money may be saved in the police department because a police officer retired a few months ago and that position has not been replaced. He said he believes the contract for the department’s school resource officers stationed in the elementary and high school buildings will remain the same.

The village will likely adopt the budget at the end of the month, he said.

The public can attend the meeting over Zoom at https://zoom.us/j/5010434972 with the meeting ID 501 043 4972 or by phone by calling 1-929-205-6099 and using the same meeting ID.

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