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Blame Tax Hike on BITI

Developer Pulls Out of Roslyn; Creates Revenue Shortfall

When the Village of Roslyn Board of Trustees approved the 2010-2011 budget, they tried to keep spending to a minimum, but they couldn’t hold the line on taxes. In fact, the tax rate rose 15.9 percent.

Last week, BOT members posted a letter to village residents on their website, one that gave the major causes behind the tax hike. And the main culprit was the decision by BITI to abandon their planned 79-unit residential condominium construction project.

“The primary reason our recent budgets have been thrown off course is the litigation and the resulting loss of revenue from the so-called BITI Project,” the letter, one signed by all five BOT members, stated. “[The] developer of what was to have been a 79-unit residential condominium project, walked away from the transaction after approximately two years of public hearings and negotiations, causing a $250,000 shortfall in anticipated revenues for the 2008-2009 fiscal year. Instead of building the project, the developer sued the Village and individual trustees, seeking $50,000 in damages. As a result, the village suffered both a substantial loss of revenue and the continued burden of defending the Village….against meritless claims.”

The collapse of the BITI project also affected the budget in other ways. This year, the village had to pay for short-term borrowings that were carried out in the 2009-2010 fiscal year. Those borrowings were due “in large measure” to the loss of revenue from BITI. Up to $110,000 in principal amount of those borrowings had to be repaid in the current budget. “Interest payments on these short-term borrowings are included in the current year’s budget,” the letter said.

Other factors for the tax increase, BOT members said, were the increased tax reduction proceedings along with lower assessed property values. Also cited was a decline in projected village revenues from its normal operations, itself the result of “an expected decrease in interest income and the loss of revenue from a lease of real property owned by the Village that was not renewed.”

Finally, there are the continued debt payments to the Pall Corporation. Such payments are being made in regard to reimbursement for pre-paid sewer costs. The total sum, $165,000, is being paid over three years, $55,000 of which was accounted for in the current budget.

“[The] issues resulting from the abandonment of the BITI project combined with the negative economic factors that affect all of us, have resulted in the current pressure on our budget,” the letter concluded.

In the budget, the BOT found savings in various departments, including the Board of Trustees, the Village Justice, the Assessor, and the Auditor portions of the Government Support budget, the latter of which is always the largest segment of the village budget. By not including overtime pay for the Code Enforcement Officer’s budget, the Public Safety budget saw a $50,485 decrease from last year’s budget. Likewise, the Transportation budget saw a slight $5,994 spending decrease, due mostly to reductions in the Storm Water/Storm Drains budget. Similarly, the Home & Community budget decreased by $32,839, with total spending reaching $1,039,150. The BOT also found savings in the Zoning, Planning Board, Sewer System, and Solid Waste Disposal segments of the budget. Still, all this could not make up for loss of revenue from BITI’s decision to pull out of Roslyn.