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Mayor, trustees fire back at chamber over funding

The village of Saranac Lake intends to phase-out funding for a local business organization starting next year, but the plan is drawing criticism from the group's membership.

Meanwhile, trustees say they intend to follow through on a plan to eliminate double-taxation within the village budget.

The president of the Saranac Lake Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors told trustees this week that the board should reconsider its decision to draw-down funding for the organization.

Speaking during Monday night's regular board meeting, Keith Wells said the chamber represents a worthwhile investment for the village.

"The chamber's staff and its board of directors work diligently to leverage your investment far beyond the dollar amount that it represents," he said. "We're pleased and honored to represent nearly 400 businesses in our region. No where else in our village will one find the quantity and quality of services we provide for Saranac Lake."

Currently, the village is cutting its contribution to the chamber from $15,000 to $10,000. That contribution will be cut by another $5,000 next year, and totally phased-out by the 2013-2014 fiscal year.

Funding for the Saranac Lake Civic Center and the Saranac Lake Adult Center had also been cut from this year's budget, but trustees restored it last week.

Trustees plan to cutback or eliminate funding for all civic organizations and service groups that also receive funding from the towns of St. Armand, North Elba, and Harrietstown. Those changes will occur in the budget for fiscal year 2012-2013.

The chamber receives $20,000 from Harrietstown and $1,000 from North Elba. The town of St. Armand does not contribute to the organization.

Wells says the board's mission to eliminate double-taxation will not result in any significant cuts to village taxes.

"This seems to have been raised by the board as a 'cause celebre' to justify these hurtful cuts made to the various civic and volunteer organizations of our community," he said. "These organizations, including the chamber, are responsible for providing a myriad of services and contribute greatly to our sense of community, our pride, and our quality of life."

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