May 05, 2009 Ami Olson Uncategorized
Savings to village taxpayers means dropped funding for library, town and private groups
One of the most controversial moves by the Marcellus Village Board in passing the 2009-10 general fund budget Monday April 27 was, at least on the surface, one of the most appropriate.
The village will this year eliminate donations to the Town of Marcellus Parks and Recreation Department, Marcellus Free Library and Health Loan Closet at an annual savings of $16,500 to the village and taxpayers.
Mayor Mike Plochocki said that the village, like many other municipalities, had for years budgeted money to be donated to private entities like the library, but that in reviewing the budget and the state law, the board found that although it may be a common practice, it’s also illegal.
For the board to use taxpayer’s money to donate to private organizations is essentially forcing residents to donate their own money to these groups, the board pointed out.
That’s not fair, or legal, and violates ‘improper gift’ laws.
Plochocki explained that if the village were to contract with an organization, they would be able to donate money. But the village isn’t willing to contract with a group unless they provide a service to village residents that would not be available to those outside the village.
The village previously donated $9,000 annually to the library and $500 to the Health Loan Closet.
Director of Marcellus Free Library Carol Johnson said the library board and staff was disappointed, but understood the position of the village.
“We’re just surprised, our facility has been so well received, and this is at a time when circulation is way up,” Johnson said. Circulation has increased 90 percent in the last year, with 1,000 new registered borrowers.
Johnson said the library is in the process of planning new fundraisers to fill the gap.
In addition to private donations, the library also has the power, as a private organization, to levy taxes on the school budget to raise funds.
Parks and Recreation
While it was not illegal for the town to donate the yearly $7,000 sum to the town’s senior and youth programs, it did “double tax” village residents, as they already pay for those programs through their town taxes, the board maintained.
While village residents pay twice the tax for the programs, they don’t receive any additional service or benefit, Plochocki said.
Marcellus Town Supervisor Dan Ross said the town would have to make adjustments but that it hopefully wouldn’t mean staff cuts.
“It’s not that big of a mountain, we’ll must have to make some adjustments,” Ross said. “But we can handle that.”
Ross said he hoped the village would still consider contributing money for state matching grants.
Not a temporary windfall
The board hopes the move will be a permanent one upheld by future village officials, but it won’t take effect immediately.
Because the village’s fiscal year begins June 1 and most other organizations’ fiscal year began January 1, to cut donations to these groups would be taking away funds they have already budgeted for, the board pointed out.
Half of the annual donations to each group will be made, allowing the organizations about six months to prepare for the drop in funding.
The board was able to keep the tax rate level with last year, but as the village enjoys its first year on the new tax rolls, many residents will see their taxes jump anyway as a result of higher assessments.