The Port Washington Police Commissioners unanimously approved a 2005 budget for the District of $13,288,134. This is $735,546 higher than the 2004 budget, representing a 5.86 percent increase. This increment is significantly lower than the 24 percent increase from 2003 to 2004. The comparison figures follow.
2004 Budget: 12,552,585
2003 Budget: 10,113,276
2003 Actual: 10,694,815
The public hearing that preceded the budget vote was sparsely attended (about a half dozen people) and there were no comments. Commissioner Sal Zimbardi speculated that the lack of comment could have been a result of the work done at the three previous budget workshops, which were open to the public.
The only issue brought up at the public hearing was the Counsel's ruling that a line item called "Fund Balance Stabilization" was, in his opinion, legal according to the Code of the Town of North Hempstead. He said that although the item is peculiarly named, it is, in fact a contingency amount for unforeseen circumstances. Commissioner James Duncan pointed out that it is prudent budgeting to set aside some money for contingencies. "You can't anticipate a catastrophe," he said. He added that the Town of North Hempstead permits a maximum contingency of 10 percent. The PWPD has budgeted $750,000, which represents 5.6 percent of the total 2005 budget. In 2004, $480,000 was budgeted for this item. As was the case in 2004, it is not planned to use any fund balances to offset the tax levy; in 2003 $500,000 was budgeted for this purpose. Because the fund balance fluctuates throughout the year, the total amount of the existing or projected fund balance cannot be determined.
The most volatile expense item in the budget for the past three years has been the item labeled "provisions for future retirements." In 2003, the amount budgeted was $100,000 and the actual expenditure $418,000. In 2004, this budget line soared to $850,000, and for 2005 it was reduced to $250,000. No on-the-record explanation was offered for this variance. Rising fuel costs led to a $28,000 increase (87.5 percent) over the 2004 budget; the $60,000 budget for that item is almost double 2003 actual. Health care fees are projected to increase by $24,000, a 17.6 percent increase over 2004. Office and operating equipment is up by $18,000 or 12 percent. Duncan said that this is primarily due to planned upgrades of computer hardware and software. Contractual legal expenses are expected to increase by $20,000 over the 2004 budget and $24,000 over the 2003 actual, a two-thirds increase from this year to next. Duncan said that this is primarily related to expenses for suit that the district has filed against its insurance carriers. If the litigation is successful, he said, the department could recoup up to $250,000 in overpayments. Workers' Compensation is up 25 percent over 2004, and is more than triple what was paid in 2003. Duncan was not certain of the reason for this increase, but said that the district did have a number of disability retirements. He added that the district has only been a participant in Workers' Compensation for the past four years.
The personnel services line, which includes personnel salaries and commissioners' fees, is up a modest 4.4 percent over 2004, from $7,637,402 in the amended 2004 budget to $7,691,287 in 2005. Most of the increase is required by the negotiated contract.
Commissioner Duncan, who serves as treasurer, said, "We worked very hard for this budget. In my opinion, it is a very modest increase." He added, "We are here to continue to serve the people of the community. We check every nickel we spend." Steve Kaplan, speaking on behalf of the General Council of Homeowner Associations, said after the conclusion of the public hearing, "I want to thank the Board of Commissioners. The public had a lot of input into the workshops. I thank the department for a good job, even though we were not able to hold the line."
The budget needs to be approved by the Town of North Hempstead, which most likely will take place within a month. The commissioners did not predict the impact of the budget on the police district tax.