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Saranac Lake village seeks to override tax cap

Saranac Lake Village Board members pose for their official photograph on March 13. From left, front row, are Trustee Elias Pelletieri, Mayor Clyde Rabideau and Trustee John McEneany. From left, standing, are trustees Tom Catillaz and Jeff Branch and Village Manager John Sweeney.

Saranac Lake Village Board members pose for their official photograph on March 13. From left, front row, are Trustee Elias Pelletieri, Mayor Clyde Rabideau and Trustee John McEneany. From left, standing, are trustees Tom Catillaz and Jeff Branch and Village Manager John Sweeney. Photo by Andy Flynn.

— Saranac Lake Village Board members voted Monday, March 26 to hold a public hearing in anticipation of overriding the state-mandated 2 percent tax cap for their 2012-13 budget.

Village Treasurer Paul Ellis filed the tentative spending plan last week, and it represents a 6.4 percent ($215,868) hike in the tax levy for the general fund. The increase is mainly due to an extra $90,000 in pension costs and a $103,543 annual payment for the million-dollar Rebuild Saranac Lake Bond Issue, which pays for replacing miles of streets and sidewalks.

“If it weren’t for those two items, we’d be looking at less than 1 percent tax levy increase this year,” Ellis said in a prepared statement.

Both Ellis and Village Manager John Sweeney recommended that the Village Board enact a local law giving them permission to override state law mandating that they not increase the tax levy by 2 percent. With a 3-2 vote, board members decided to hold a public hearing on April 16, which is required before they adopt the new law.

“This is a safety measure,” Sweeney said in prepared statement. “I know the board will go over the budget line-by-line, but we’ve taken out so much over the last few years that I don’t see much of anything left to cut and I don’t want to lose our sidewalk program.”

Trustee Elias “Allie” Pelletieri voted against the measure.

“There’s a lot of things in there that should be taken out,” Pelletieri said.

Branch voted no as well.

“Without this, it’s going to force you guys to look at the budget hard and make some tough decisions,” Branch said. “I think it’s a little premature to put this out.”

Mayor Clyde Rabideau — who voted for the resolution with trustees Tom Catillaz and John McEneany — said the village needs time to hold a public hearing before passing the local law, since the budget needs to be adopted by May 1.

The tentative budget — general fund — totals $5,026,435 and the proposed tax levy is $3,567,133. The amount to be raised by taxes is expected to increase by 30 percent for Water and 6 percent for Sewer.

Village Board members will begin budget deliberations in April.

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