LP village budget approved despite discord over police cuts

The Lake Placid Village Board of Trustees voted Monday to approve next year's budget in spite of disagreement over whether to eliminate two positions from the village's Police Department.

Trustee Zay Curtis said the decision to cut the positions would erode the functionality of the department.

"What's happening right now is by cutting those two positions we're forcing a lot of overtime on the officers that are left," Curtis said.

"Today we're faced with 5 officers who can retire anytime they want and three more who are planning to leave because they don't want to put up with the extra stress on their schedules. I believe that by the end of the summer you're going to have departures scheduled for over half the police force," he added.

Trustee Jason Leon cited similar concerns in his vote against the budget, while Curtis ultimately voted in favor of it.

Mayor Craig Randall and trustees Peter Holderied and Art Devlin also voted to pass the budget.

In March, two police officers left the department, reducing the force from 12 officers to 10.

Scott Monroe is the village's police chief. He told the board during a recent budget hearing that the staff cuts would cripple his department.

But Randall said Monday that the move is necessary to help the village counter its skyrocketing employee costs. He pointed out that employee-related costs account for 40 percent of the village's general fund balance.

Randall says this year's budget includes employee retirement benefit increases of more than 60 percent. Those increases were a result of declines in assets underlying pension fund accounts. The village is contractually obligated refund those losses.

Health insurance costs also shot up, according to Randall, with a projected increase of 12 percent next year.

The budget also includes a larger tax increase than originally proposed this spring because of continued declines in real estate assessments.

The tax rate rose 3 percent to $5.40 cents for every thousand of assessed value.

The village's tax increase adds $42,000 to the current tax levy of $3.29 million.

Total spending would be much higher, about $5.4 million, but Randall says the difference would be made up from additional revenues, such as sales tax and payments from the town for fire protection, sewer and electric services.

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