Photo by Donna Thompson – Mayor Mark Blask, center, discusses the 2022 budget during a meeting Tuesday evening in the Little Falls Council Chambers. Also shown are City Clerk Kira Miller, left, and Alderman Todd Dillon, right.

by Donna Thompson

The Little Falls Common Council Tuesday evening unanimously adopted a $6.7 million budget that carries a 1.5 percent increase in the tax levy.

The vote on the $6,706,839 spending plan followed a public hearing at which no one spoke. The new tax rate is $112.93 per $1,000 of assessed value, up from the 2021 rate of $111.26 per $1,000.

There will be no increase in water and sewer rates and all city services will remain the same, said Mayor Mark Blask. “Things are going up – the price of gas, goods, and supplies.”
He pointed out that the new budget does not use money from the city’s fund balance.

“We hope to build a cushion,” he said. “We learned a lot from the audit.” The fund balance should be available to provide funds for emergencies so the city won’t have to borrow if something unexpected comes up, the mayor added.

“A lot of work went into this budget and I’m thankful for everyone who worked on it,” he said. He noted that this was City Treasurer Tony Federico’s first budget. There were meetings with department heads and City Engineer Chet Szymanski spent hours working on the plan, according to Blask.

He praised the entire team and added, “I think we did right by the people of Little Falls.” He commented that he expects the budget process to be much easier next year.

An audit report released last year by the state comptroller’s office showed the city had “significant fiscal stress” and cited overstated fund balances, lack of proper oversight, and annual borrowing because the city’s budget calendar does not align with its fiscal year among the reasons.

Blask said at the time that city officials were working on a corrective plan to address the issues raised.

Reconnect Little Falls

The mayor reported that a Local Planning Committee meeting for the city’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 6, at the Rock City Centre, 690 E. Main St., Little Falls. The session, scheduled to run from 6 to 8 p.m., will also be available online. A Zoom link is available on the website, reconnectlittlefalls.com.

The viability of the projects being considered will be discussed, according to Blask.

The city was selected in December 2021 to receive $10 million in grant funding through the state’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative to implement transformative capital projects in its downtown. The city plans to focus on reconnecting its downtown Main Street to its waterfront along the Mohawk River and its historic canal district.

Alert system

Alderman Tim Lyon reported that he has been looking into an alert system that would allow the city to send text messages to residents’ cell phones. Residents would choose whether or not to opt-in for the program and it could be used to notify them of snow emergencies, road closures, and other announcements. “There are a lot of options,” he said.

Council members agreed they would like to move forward with the plan.

“The work would be in setting it up,” said Blask. “I think people would appreciate it.” He added that he would like to see the alert system up and running by fall.

Board of Assessment Review

The Common Council voted unanimously to approve a local law reducing the number of members on the city’s Board of Assessment Review from five to three. The local law noted that Real Property Tax Law requires each municipality to have a Board of Assessment Review consisting of three to five members. The city has had difficulty filling vacancies on the board and decided to reduce the number of members to three. An alternate member could be appointed for a one-year term at the discretion of the Common Council, but would only participate and vote in the absence of a regular member. There were no comments during a public hearing held prior to Tuesday’s council meeting.

Daryn Lynch was appointed to the Board of Assessment Review to fill the remainder of Mary Metott’s term, which expires Sept. 30, 2025.

In other business, the council passed a resolution authorizing the mayor and City Attorney Jennifer Chrisman to execute a boundary line agreement and file the necessary documents to correct the boundary lines between property owned by the city and by William and Christina McCue along Loomis Street Extension. The boundary lines shown on the tax map and property deeds do not match up, said Chrisman. Those on the tax map are inaccurate and need to be corrected. The move will reduce the McCues’ assessment, she added.