Tonight, I am pleased to present my first budget as Mayor of Glen Cove.
Last year, we suffered through one of the worst periods in the history of our nation. It was a year with events that impacted drastically on the hearts and minds of our citizens and on the economy of this country.
No city, state or county escaped it.
Are we down? Only for a short period.
Are we resilient? More than any other people in the world!
Are we optimistic about our future? You bet we are!
Unfortunately, a large number of Long Island's municipalities are faced with the stark reality of budgets with tax increases....Glen Cove is one of them.
In Hempstead, property owners may see their taxes raised for the first time in four years. In Huntington, they are considering raising taxes for the first time in eight years. Nassau County has submitted a budget with a 19.4 percent tax increase for next year. Should we compare the competence of other financial directors in other municipalities on Long Island with the financial experts of this wonderful city?
I don't think so.
Should we report on how the unfortunate and unforeseen happenings of the past year have affected the economy of this nation and the financial status of this city?
I do think so.
Due to the horror of September 11, and the tanking of the stock market, we are seeing astronomical increases in health insurance premiums and pension costs....some as high as 217 percent. These increases, coupled with negotiated salary increases, have a direct, negative impact on this budget. In fact, these costs account for 76 percent of our tax increase.
The 2003 budget will reflect a 10 percent increase. The average homeowner can expect to pay an additional $152 a year.
Upon assuming office, I directed our controller to take a hard look at all city operations that result in non-tax revenue to the city. Adopting a leaner, more efficient approach and a "hard-look" cost cutting philosophy, our city controller, our financial councilman and city staff worked long and hard to avoid what could have been a tremendous tax hike for 2003.
On a more optimistic note, I am happy to report that all water and sewer billings have increased by 10 percent. This was accomplished internally without new hiring. We also improved our meter readings and billing system. Quarterly billings are now made on actual readings in lieu of estimated readings. Customers' concerns are followed up by sending one of our servicemen to check the premises for any possible leaks.
Another new source of revenue is the collection of delinquent water and sewer hookup fees of non-resident property owners. Every possible non-resident building has been verified to be a part of our system. Our finance department has made field trips to acquaint themselves with the properties involved.
Our records have been updated to include the present ownership and to match the type of occupancy-commercial or residential-to our own records.
Realizing the magnitude of the current situation and after in-depth discussions, each one of our departments will be held at current staffing levels. We expect some Civil Service employees to opt for early retirement by December of this year. We will do more with less.
A balanced financial plan, this budget positions us to move ahead to the opportunities that await us. The pendulum swings both ways and this city is on the brink of a new era. Visible proof is all around us. Just a few months ago, our building department completed a field study to determine whether our efforts to market, beautify and attract new occupants to the downtown have proved successful. Today we have possibly the lowest rate of vacant stores in two decades! More than 91 percent of all stores in Glen Cove are occupied. Glen Cove is healthy and the downtown occupancy rates are at an all time high.
The new construction on Pratt Boulevard will transform a visible, large expanse of vacant land that has contributed zero in tax dollars into a beautiful and proud gateway to our new waterfront. Avalon Bay will be on the tax rolls by 2004. The fulfillment of the promise for a new waterfront is at hand. We are in active negotiations and anticipate naming a developer for the waterfront by the early part of next year, if not sooner.
The year 2003 will bring us to the threshold of true continued accomplishment. Long awaited plans will reach fruition...aspirations will be realized.
I know I am asking everyone to make sacrifices and when I say everyone, that includes my family, friends and coworkers. We are all in this together and we will rise above the challenges because Glen Cove is a city of dedicated people determined to make things work. A truly American city. And we Glen Covers will make sure our city continues to thrive as a truly wonderful place to live, work and raise a family.