WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) — Something Massena town officials didn’t want to happen has happened. Transferring Massena Memorial Hospital to St. Lawrence Health System did not erase the debt that city officials had hoped would disappear.
Although the city no longer owns Massena Memorial, it still carries millions of dollars in debt since it did.
A just released 2020 city audit shows that after the city transferred the hospital to the St. Lawrence Health System, the city incurred $9.3 million in debt and it could leaving the city’s taxpayers on the hook.
The money is owed to the New York State Pension Fund because when the city ran the hospital, the employees were public sector workers and eligible for state retirement.
Steve O’Shaughnessy is Massena’s former town supervisor and was already hoping for an answer to the current debt.
“We’ll see what happens. Hopefully, before I left office, we were working with Senator (Joe) Griffo and Assemblyman (Mark) Walczyk to try to get a grant to help pay that or a loan forgiveness from New York State retirement,” he said.
What does 9 million dollars mean for the town of Masséna? In order to repay the debt, residents would have to pay $700 each.
Of course, that’s not how it works, and city officials are offering realistic ways to pay back the $9 million, including a possible landowner tax for the next 20 years.
“We are all concerned about our taxpayers and we make sure we do what we can for the benefit of taxpayers. We have all attended many budget courses ourselves to understand the budgeting practices, fiscal oversight, internal control that keep popping up,” said Massena City Supervisor Sue Bellor.
Ultimately, Bellor and O’Shaughnessy point out that Massena still has a hospital and hundreds of people are still employed. But now we know at what cost.
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