The Saranac Lake Village Board of Trustees voted unanimously this week to end funding of civic organizations and the local chamber of commerce beginning next year.
Trustees originally hoped to begin phasing out the village's contribution to groups like the Saranac Lake Adult Center and the Saranac Lake Area Chamber of Commerce in the 2011-2012 budget.
Plans to decrease funding for the chamber and cut funding for the adult center and the Saranac Lake Civic Center were met with harsh resistance, prompting trustees to restore funding for the time being.
But during Monday night's regular board meeting, trustees promised that this funding cycle would be the last.
Deputy Mayor Jeff Branch was reluctant to restore funding. He says that next year, he won't budge.
"This is it," he said. "I hope the towns understand that they need to take all of these funds that they charge in both the Harrietstown "A" and "B" funds and that the village also tags them with and move them to the "B" fund, outside the village. The other option would be to simply increase their funding that the village offset so that everybody pays the same."
In recent weeks, trustees have been pushing for an end to what they call "double-taxation" - a practice that Mayor Clyde Rabideau has called unfair.
The budget for 2011-2012 includes $5,000 in funding for the adult center, $4,000 for the civic center, and $15,000 for the chamber.
That won't be the case next year. Branch says that village Manager John Sweeney contacted groups last fall, informing them that funding from the village would end this year.
Branch hopes that a unanimously adopted resolution will send a stronger message.
"The intention of this is that it's no longer a letter from the village manager - not that that doesn't hold great weight in my book," he said. "This is a board motion, part of the record, and something I hope we'll stick to next year."
Trustee Allie Pelletieri has supported the board's effort to end double-taxation. But he also said that when the village ends the practice, it must do it across-the-board.
Pelletieri opposed ending funding for some groups while merely decreasing it elsewhere, noting that the cuts should not be discretionary.
Branch says it's time for civic groups and other organizations to begin a dialogue with town officials about future funding.
"And now I hope that these organizations will start going after Mr. [Roby] Politi, Mrs. [Joyce] Morency, and Mr. [Larry] Miller and says it's time they start paying their fair share and it's time they pony up and do the right thing," he said. "I sat in this Government Restructuring Committee for two-and-a-half years and if there's one thing we found, it's that there's a gross discrepancy between what the residents of this village give and what the people in the towns give."
According to Branch, village residents in North Elba pay about $100,000 to the town and get no service in return.
"It's time they do the right thing - and we all know it's the right thing," he said. "It's a no-brainer."
Trustee Pelletieri said the board needs to send copies of the resolution to the three towns. He also called for a meeting with town officials to discuss the issue of double-taxation.
The village budget for 2011-2012 carries an increase to the tax levy of about 2 percent.
The tax rate for Harrietstown decrease by some 7 percent, while village taxpayers in the towns of St. Armand and North Elba will see their tax rates go up by about 7 percent.