Raise sparks village budget controversy

LAKE GEORGE A decision to award a 4 percent raise to one village employee drew the ire of two Lake George Village trustees and caused one of them to vote against the 2008-2009 budget proposal. Trustee Marisa Muratori said she didnt believe the individual in question merited a raise based on the employees performance. I have a real ethical issue with these automatic raises, Muratori said. And I believe my constituents would have an issue with it as well. So Im voting no. Mayor Robert Blais took issue with Muratoris characterization of the raise. I take exception to your word automatic, Blais said and explained that the raises werent automatic and not everyone received the same raise. The budget provides for most village employees to receive a 4 percent raise. But at least two employees made a case for larger raises and received them, Blais said. But Muratori didnt back down. I think you did a fine job with the budget, Muratori said. But I find it extremely distasteful because of this automatic raise. Trustee John Root echoed Muratoris concern. I support the budget, Root said. But I want it on the record that I dont agree with this department head getting this raise. I dont believe the individual deserves it. Neither Root nor Muratori identified the individual in question. When Blais called the vote, Root joined Trustees Raymond Perry and John Earl in approving the budget and Muratori cast the lone dissenting vote. The $3.69 million general fund budget calls for a tax rate of $8.068 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, an increase of 2.3 percent or 20 cents per $1,000. Prior to the vote, the board held a public hearing, but no one from the public spoke regarding the budget. When you can build a new fire house and bond it; and participate in the purchase of Gaslight Village; and do all we do and still hold the tax rate down to a 2.3 percent increase, thats pretty remarkable, Blais said. And weve done it while maintaining a healthy reserve. Blais credited the work of Village Clerk/Treasurer Darlene Gunther and Deputy Clerk Deb McKinney for the villages budget success. They deserve a lot of praise for the work theyve done, Blais said. Gunther announced that the village received an extremely favorable interest rate of 1.9 percent on the $1 million the village is borrowing from Adirondack Trust Company for construction of the fire house.

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