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From the Desk of Mayor Butch Starkie - May 13, 2011

Open Letter to the Village of Farmingdale Residents

Your Village Board has been busy meeting every week on many important issues including a much needed new master plan, updated sign regulations, and new building codes to bring our Village into the 21st century. We want to keep and preserve the positive things we love about living in the Village while looking at necessary changes, particularly in our downtown Main Street area, to keep it relevant and viable for future generations. Please try to attend some of the many upcoming outreach sessions (scoping) to join in the discussions. Your input is valuable to us.

One of the pressing issues presently facing the Village Board now is the need to fund new firetrucks.

One possible solution we’ve discussed involved cutting one of the three 8-hour shifts from our staff of full time, paid dispatchers and using the money saved on salary and benefits to help pay part of the debt service on a bond. The shift to be eliminated would be determined by the commissioners and chiefs of the Village Fire Department. The funds raised from the bond would be used to pay for the much needed new safety equipment. The duties of the one full-time dispatcher would then fall upon the Nassau County 911 system (FireCom), which is already included in your Nassau County real estate taxes. Surrounding communities, including South Farmingdale, have relied on the Nassau County 911 system to provide these services on all shifts for many years now.

We have discussed this option because it affords us the ability to provide the needed firefighting apparatus for our volunteers and the safety of the community, and fund that purchase by eliminating what could be argued as a duplicated service, thereby minimizing the impact on your Village tax bill.

Recognizing that this is a sensitive issue, we had planned on placing the decision to either retain or eliminate all dispatchers on the ballot as a referendum for March 2011 so that all village residents would have the opportunity to vote on this issue. Unfortunately, we have since been informed by the State of New York that using taxpayer funds to vote on this referendum is illegal.

Raising taxes, even to pay for needed safety equipment, is always a tough decision, especially when we are dealing with numerous financial issues. For example, we are faced with substantial increases in the cost of Health and State Retirement, the need to continue with the repaving of roads to protect our infrastructure, and a pending shortfall of approximately $800,000 in the Village Fire Department Length of Service Award fund. These are just some of the reasons we are working so hard to come up with ways to do more with less.

While it seems that the elimination of a paid fire dispatcher on one shift at the Village Fire Department to help pay for the needed firetrucks might be an obvious choice, especially when these services can be supplied by the Nassau County 911 system during that shift anyway, we recognize that this is a sensitive issue and the residents of this community should have the opportunity to be heard. Quite honestly, it has become a sensitive issue among the board members as well as we are split on this decision. That said, we stand together in our desire to do what’s best for our taxpayers. That is why we are asking you to attend future meetings (first Monday of the month) and join in the forum as we consider all options before making this important decision.

(Editor’s note: The preceding is reprinted from the Farmingdale Village Report newsletter, dated April 2011, mailed to the residents of the Village.)

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We had our first of many planned meetings this past Monday and I wanted to point out to the public that, although the LOSAP (Fireman’s Length of Service Award Program) is underfunded by $800,000 , I am not blaming any members of the Fire Dept. or any past administrations for the difficult position we find ourselves in. I only want to deal with the situation that was presented to me and the Board of Trustees. I believe we were given information from our insurance company’s actuary that turned out to be inaccurate. We are no longer with that company. Please attend our first of the month Board of Trustees meeting to express your views.

Mayor George “Butch” Starkie, Village of Farmingdale