Christopher Lenney/Watertown Daily Times

MASSENA — Budget season has arrived for the town of Massena.

Massena Town Board members received the proposed budget during a special meeting on Wednesday, and they’ll be meeting at 4:30 p.m. every Wednesday to discuss department requests until the spending plan is finalized in November.

The schedule calls for them to discuss highway and airport, museum, library and senior citizens on Wednesday, and rescue squad, Meals on Wheels, Business Development Corp., North Country Life Flight, promotional budget and salaries on Oct. 20.

The Oct. 20 meeting will be followed by the regular monthly meeting at 5:30 p.m. The board will accept the preliminary budget on Oct. 27 and the final budget on Nov. 3.

Since Wednesday was the first time officials had seen the proposed budget, there was no discussion about numbers. However, they did talk in general terms about what they were looking at financially in 2022.

Patrick Facteau, who is seeking one of two council seats this November, was the lone audience member.

“Tonight’s meeting, is it just to hand this stuff out and you guys come back next time? Is there going to be no discussion about budgets or anything tonight?” he asked.

“Minimal, if any. We’re going to just talk in generalities,” Supervisor Steven D. O’Shaughnessy said. “Next week we would start with the different departments.”

Council member Albert Nicola said that’s the way the town has done it in the past.

“We’ve just received the budget form the clerk, because we haven’t had the chance to look at that, then next week (will be) taking it apart,” he said.

Town bookkeeper and secretary Brenda Mossow said there would be some changes from what was presented to board members on Wednesday. One of them deals with the minimum wage.

“The minimum wage did go up at the last minute,” she said. “So I’ll change the ones that are in there that have minimum wage, which changes your Social Security and your FICA (Federal Insurance Contributions Act tax) quite a little bit.”

She said everything else contained in the budget is what was individual departments had requested.

“Certain departments really added more” than the previous budget, Mr. O’Shaughnessy said.

He suggested departments look at what they had spent in the past and adjust their requests that way, rather than just transferring what they had asked for the previous year.

He also noted that some of the increases were because of the town’s local match for grant funding and low-interest loans for projects such as water line replacement and grants procured for the Massena International Airport.

“Unfortunately, supplies and other stuff like that is not going to stay flat,” council member Robert Elsner said. “Under COVID, everything has been even hyper-inflated for no reason whatsoever.”

Previous budgets had contained a line item that covered the Badenhausen Branch of the Massena Public Library in Brasher Falls, although that cost was covered by the estate of the late Dr. D. Susan Badenhausen. The town of Massena in turn paid the bills for that facility. But, the town of Brasher has been asked to take over when funding runs out at the end of this year.

“For some reason they kept getting included in the budget, all $65,000,” Mr. O’Shaughnessy said.

The requested budget for the Massena International Airport would increase next year because of various factors, including the rising cost of fuel, Airport Manager Frank Diagostino said. He said they were currently paying approximately $18,000 more.

“That’s the largest increase at the airport,” he said.

Mr. Elsner suggested that, when departments submit budget requests, they should contain figures that they know they will spend during the year if they request an increase.

“They should come with an explanation as to why they think that number is justified,” he said. “If they have something that says, ‘Yeah, this vehicle is 40 years old and we’ve spent more than $60,000 maintaining it. We’d like to either cover that maintenance or buy a new ambulance for $250,000.’ That’s the budget process and that’s the way it should be.”

Otherwise, he suggested, requested money might not get spent and the department will realize later in the year that they need to spend it before the year is out.

“That is not an uncommon mindset,” Mr. Elsner said.

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