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2013-04-24 / Front Page

Wandell Administration passes new budget in Amityville Village

Tax rate up $1.25 but plan within NYS tax cap
By Carolyn James

Following more than three weeks of discussion and review, the Amityville Village Board approved a $15.2 million budget that raises the tax rate $1.25 and meets the New York State tax cap. The plan was hammered out by the newly elected Village administration under Mayor James P. Wandell.

“This budget, unlike others in the past, underestimates revenues and overestimates expenses,” said Trustee Nick LaLota. “We knew we only had a few weeks to turn in a budget that maintained the quality of life and services and passed along a reasonable tax-rate increase, and we have worked very hard to do that.”

The board was left with an open financial plan from the former administration of Mayor Peter T. Imbert that could have increased taxes anywhere from 1.98 to 8 percent. It made a public commitment, however, that it would bring in a new spending plan for 2013-14 that would meet the New York State  cap on the tax levy, which is at 2 percent, with exemptions for certain line items in the budget.

The budget, which increases spending by 4.85 percent from $14.5 to $15.2 million, will raise taxes on the average home assessed at $9,360 an additional $117 year bringing the annual bill to $3,124.37. Homes assessed higher will pay more, while those assessed lower, pay less. Individual assessments are listed on property tax bills.

While the new spending plan meets the commitment to the public made by the Wandell administration of staying within the tax cap, it also increased the Village’s bonded indebtedness, calling for paying off a $300,000 pension obligation over ten years at 3.5 percent interest instead of including the full costs in this year’s budget. That raised discussion on the board with Trustee Kevin Smith who said he opposed putting further debt on to the taxpayers. He would prefer, he said, passing along a 7.9 percent tax-rate increase, which would avoid further borrowing, putting the Village “on an even table” and helping to raise its bond rating, which has dropped over the past three years. Higher bond ratings mean lower borrowing costs, while lower bond ratings, increase those costs.

“I believe that if we do this now, it would enable us down the road to have money to start work on our roadways, storm drains and the other things that need to be fixed (in the Village), he said.

The Village is currently at 46 percent of its debt limit, and LaLota said the board is working on a 15-year plan to “eat away” at that debt. “It is going to take some time,” he told about 100 residents who attended the meeting.

The Village is also running at approximately a $700,000 deficit, but Wandell and the other board members said they expect to keep a close eye on the budget in the hope of finding more savings as the year proceeds and to negotiate payments on some of the longstanding debts owed to the Village by developers and Suffolk County.

Wandell also said that he has met with the PBA President and that discussions are underway to find ways to reduce police costs. “I told him (PBA President Christian Mullin) that we were looking for some savings and he is a good man and is sensitive to that,” said Wandell.

In other business, the board:

•denied an application of William Bontemps, doing business as Bildan Realty, Ltd., to maintain a storage trailer at 21-23 Merrick Road. The board said the Village has tried to work with Bontemps for several years and wants to see a permanent structure built there.

“This is, afterall, the entrance to our Village and it looks awful,” said one resident who supported the board’s decision to deny the application.

• listened to residents who complained about the condition, storage of vehicles and garbage of homes along  Railroad Avenue near Wellington Place. Resident Lani Yeswoit said garbage collects in front of the homes and that despite numerous complaints made to the Village, it has taken The Village too long to react and cite the owners for violations.

Resident Joanne Fisk agreed saying the process of addressing landlords who violate local codes and ordinances takes too long. “It is just is not working,” she said, pointing to a problem she reported three years ago that continues to languish in the courts. Wandell said he would look into the issue.

The next Village board meeting is May 13, 8 p.m. Village Hall, third floor Court Room.



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