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Trustees: Sustainable structural changes needed for SL village

The Saranac Lake Village Board of Trustees will consider a series of "sustainable structural" changes as it prepares to adopt the budget for 2011-2012.

During a budget work session Monday night, several trustees shared ideas for trimming a potential 3.7 percent increase to the tax levy. The board hopes the budget for next year will carry a zero percent increase to the tax levy.

Village Treasurer Paul Ellis told trustees that cuts of about $33,000 would knock about one percent off the potential tax levy increase.

Trustee Jeff Branch said the board should direct department heads to cut 10 percent from their budgets.

"We need to break this philosophy of 'if we don't spend it, we'll have to take it back,'" he said.

Branch floated a number of ideas for reducing spending, including closing down the village-run beach at Lake Colby for a couple days a week, and doing the same at the Mt. Pisgah Ski Center.

Trustee Allie Pelletieri said a serious approach to cutting spending would have to include layoffs of village employees. He pointed to dramatic increase in retirement and benefit costs.

Pelletieri said cutting one position at the fire department, police department, and the village Department of Public Works was a good start. He also said at least one administrative position should be slashed.

Village Manager John Sweeney said he's already removed a snowmobile and an all-terrain vehicle from potential expenditures, as well as two full-time and two part-time positions.

Board members like John McEneany said that long-term changes must be made to lower costs for taxpayers. That includes a plan for limiting tax-exempt properties, he said.

"I believe taxpayers have had enough," he said, noting that it's time to start making major changes to the way the village does business.

A budget work session is scheduled for 5 p.m. Thursday at the village offices. Mayor Clyde Rabideau says trustees will consider personnel and "sustainable structural changes" at that meeting.

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