Written by Rich Forestano Friday, 22 April 2011 00:00
The Board of Trustees of the Village of Mineola presented its tentative budget for the 2011-2012 fiscal year at the April 13 board meeting. The approximate $19 million budget represents a 3.65 percent tax increase. The budget must be adopted by May 31, the end of the current fiscal year.
Mayor Scott Strauss stressed that the budget presented was in “real numbers” and that this is pretty much what the village was going with for the next year. He estimated that the tax increase was about $5 more a month per household.
“That tax increase is lower than many communities in Nassau County,” Strauss said. “Some are much higher. Most are hovering around eight or nine percent. I understand that any increase affects the homeowners. That 3.65 percent tax increase, if it indeed can’t go lower, comes out to about $5 extra a month. I don’t want that to sound trivial.
“To some people that makes a world of difference,” he said. “I lived through it myself where $5 means $5. It pains me to increase taxes, but it looks like that’s the fact of life. We can’t print money. The numbers are what they are. I’m not a fan of cutting services. I think we need to maintain the standard we set as residents and employees of the village.”
In terms of New York State aid, village treasurer Giacomo Ciccone said those figures are not available at this time. Ciccone stated any possible aid would not affect the budget, because it’s “on the revenue side and expense side of the budget.”
“We asked the department heads to check their budget lines with a fine-toothed comb and they certainly did that,” Strauss said. “Unfortunately we had some increases that were beyond our control.”
Medical increases came to the tune of $410,000. Retirement and pension contributions topped off at $247,000 as well as $235,000 in union contractual increases. That $892,000 the village had no control over other than union contracts, according to Strauss.
“With that being said, because of the financial concern of the previous and current administration, and I give credit where credit is due, they decided to pay off two BAN’s (bond anticipation notes) at a savings of $261,000. They gave early retirement incentives to several employees. We’re losing them, but we’re hiring new employees at lower salary rates, to a savings for the taxpayers of $155,000.”
Strauss stated that the 10-year deal with Omni of Babylon transporting village garbage, saves the village $140,000 this coming fiscal year. Furthermore, Strauss said if the village didn’t have these “outside entities” in the pension contributions mandated by the state and increases in healthcare, there would be a zero percent increase in the budget.
“We have an extremely lean budget,” he said. “ I don’t think there are any other areas where we could cut and make sacrifices without cutting services. I’d rather not cut services. That’s one of the great things we have in the village.”
Trustee Paul Pereira cited state mandates such as pension costs and contractual obligations for the tax increase. Lamenting then-mayor Larry Werther’s comments a few months ago, “you can’t cap what you can’t control.”
“From the pension increases and the healthcare increases alone, that puts us in the increase range we’re at,” Pereira said. “It’s interesting because you hear a lot of talk about tax caps recently. As Mr. Werther says in that ‘you can’t cap what you can’t control.’ You can’t control mandates from the state in healthcare, pensions, and etcetera. Sure we can cut services and make the numbers lower, but realize that once you cut something, to put it back in, taxes would increase more.”
The senate recently passed a tax cap bill that’s supported by Governor Andrew Cuomo that would cap the growth of school and local municipality tax levy increases at 2 percent. This bill, that has not passed in the Assembly yet, has been met with much criticism by Nassau County school districts and municipalities.
Pereira said the board is not running away from the fact that the increase is happening, but to profile other villages and municipalities, the village is, “in good shape, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that we have to increase to keep services you’ve come to expect, but at this point it’s the best we can do.”