Tupper Lake village tentative budget over state tax cap

TUPPER LAKE — The village of Tupper Lake is developing a $3.3 million budget which is expected to be over the state-imposed tax cap and includes the town picking up at least a portion of the bill for the two police officers it provides to the school district.

Village Mayor Mary Fontana said the village will “definitely” need to override the tax cap. This is primarily because the village may be picking up the majority of the cost of the two school resource officers it provides the Tupper Lake Central School District.

Fontana said she and village Clerk Mary Casagrain have worked on the budget “ad nauseam.”

The budget

The tentative budget is still under work — the village board’s first work session on it is scheduled for Monday — but it currently sits at $3,310,579.67, a $105,669.33 or 3.30% increase in spending.

To pay for the budget, the village plans to collect, or levy, $2,331,903.67 in taxes from property owners, an 8.4% increase from the current year. This is well over the state-imposed tax cap, which limits the amount the village can raise taxes from year-to-year.

The tax cap for the coming year was set at $2,220,349, an allowable 3.93% increase. The current levy is over the cap by $111,554.67.

To do this, the board will have to vote to exceed the tax cap with a 60% majority. The village has done this before in 2021.

Casagrain said the village’s allowable increase to the tax cap went down $76,905 because last year the village chose to eliminate three empty police officer positions. This lowered the tax rate last year by $0.80 per $1,000 of assessed value but also lowered the allowable increase cap this year.

If this budget passes, it will have a tax rate of $16.26 per every $1,000 of assessed property value, an increase of 7.83%, or a $1.27 increase per $1,000 over the current year.

Someone who owns a $100,000 home would pay $1,625.50 in taxes next year, up $127.25 from the current year. Someone who owns a $200,000 home would pay $3,251 in taxes next year, up $254.50 from the current year.

The budget also calls for the village to pull $100,000 from its fund balance for the budget.

School officers

Fontana said the village budget is tight this year because the school district initially planned to eliminate the two school resource officers — village police officers who are primarily stationed at L.P. Quinn Elementary School and the Middle-High School on school days, where they provide security, and educational and emotional support.

These positions are funded through the school. The village employs the SROs — Sgt. Geoffrey Carmichael and retired former chief Tom Fee — and gets reimbursed by the school district. Last year, the village was reimbursed for around $140,000 for those two positions.

As the school district has developed its budget, it is tight as well. The district is already making between 17 and 20 layoffs as coronavirus pandemic-era funding dries up. And it initially planned to cut the SRO positions because it couldn’t afford to keep paying for them.

TLCSD Superintendent Russ Bartlett said parents told him they want to keep the SROs. Fontana said, as a taxpayer and a mother with two students in the district, she felt it was important to keep them.

“The safety of our students is paramount to their success there,” she said. “We can’t have education without first providing safety.”

So the village is considering taking on the cost of those positions and is speaking with the towns of Tupper Lake and Piercefield to potentially split the costs among the three to keep the SROs. The village would still bear the majority of the costs, though.

“There’s no dollar amount that you can put on a child’s life that would not justify having that officer there,” Fontana said.

Work sessions start

There was no public comment on the tentative budget or tax cap override at a meeting on Monday.

This coming Monday will be the first budget work session with the full board. It will be held at 5 p.m. in the village offices on Park Street. The village board streams on Zoom at meeting ID 501 043 4972.

Fontana said the general fund is the main place to cut money from, but it mostly funds the public works, fire and police departments, which are “highly utilized” and have budgets “comparable to what they do.” There’s not a lot of places to shave money from. Water, sewer and electric utilities are all rate-based, instead of tax-based in Tupper Lake.

The budget does not include any changes to the village water, sewer and electric rates. These rates were changed last year, with increases to water and sewer in anticipation of taking on debt for water treatment plant.

Currently water and sewer rates are $32 a month each in the village, and $39.20 for water in the town and $37.20 for sewer in the town.

The budget does not include any pay changes for the mayor or trustees.


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