Government

Port Jefferson Treasurer Don Pearce explains the 2015-16 budget at a meeting in Village Hall on Wednesday night. Photo by Elana Glowatz

A week after some Port Jefferson residents called on village officials to keep any tax increases as low as possible in next year’s budget, the board of trustees did just that when they approved a $10.2 million spending plan Wednesday night that complies with the state-imposed cap on tax levy increases.

The budget will raise taxes by $0.46 for every $100 of assessed value on a property. That number comes in just below the village’s tax levy increase cap, at 1.68 percent.

At the time of a public hearing on April 6, the village had been working with a budget draft that would have carried a 4 percent tax increase, even after the board slashed more than $300,000 in expenses during budget workshops. The hearing was on a measure that the trustees ultimately passed that night to give themselves the authority to pierce the cap if necessary — something Port Jefferson has done each year since the state cap was enacted. But some residents implored the board to better control taxes and stay within the cap this time.

Treasurer Don Pearce said at the public hearing that in order to meet the cap, the village would have to cut out more than $140,000 in expenses or add revenues to the spending plan. On Wednesday night, Pearce said the village took residents’ comments and whittled down the budget further to close that gap.

Pearce reported that the 2015-16 budget will represent an increase of about $217,000 over the current year’s budget, which means that the village’s mandated expenses — like employee retirement contributions, health care costs and payments to the local ambulance company — are increasing more than the budget itself.

Pol pitches bill to broaden alternative energy use

State Sen. Carl Marcellino is behind new legislation aimed at aiding schools to go green. File photo by Elana Glowatz

School districts looking to go green could see more green for it, if proposed state legislation to help school districts pay for alternative energy projects makes its way through Albany.

New York State Sen. Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset) has sponsored legislation that would strengthen the state’s support for alternative energy in school districts. Currently, there’s state building aid available for the installation of wind and solar systems, but Marcellino’s legislation allows all types of alternative energy systems to be eligible for building aid.

Also, currently, only alternative energy systems that meet an 18-year payback window are eligible for aid, but Marcellino’s proposed law removes that requirement, according to Debbie Peck Kelleher, director of the state Senate Investigations and Government Operations Committee.

“It would allow all systems to get the building aid,” Kelleher said.

Most districts see an average reimbursement between 70 to 75 percent of the project cost, she said.
In an interview last week, Marcellino said school districts turning to alternative energies provide a boon to taxpayers, because of energy savings in utility costs over time.

“It’s a win-win all the way around.”

Marcellino’s legislation has been referred to the Senate’s education committee, and has support from assemblymen Chad Lupinacci (R-Melville) and Andy Raia (R-East Northport).

Long Island school officials have pondered solar panel installations, and some districts have embarked on projects of their own.

Last year, Miller Place school district green-lighted a $4.3 million project to install solar panels on the roofs of its four school buildings. The project qualified for $3.7 million in state aid, according to Danny Haffel, the executive director of energy solutions on Long Island of Johnson Controls, a Wisconsin-based technology and energy-savings solutions company that the district worked with. Haffel added that the project would save the district more than $243,000 — close to half of its utility budget — in annual energy costs.

Under the contract with Johnson Controls, the district, which would lease the panels for $362,528 a year over 15 years, would be guaranteed those savings, so that in case the savings are not realized through the solar panels, Johnson Controls would foot the bill.

“The Miller Place school district’s decision to pursue alternative energy projects including solar power will not only benefit the environment, but is anticipated to produce financial savings for the district,” Superintendent Marianne Higuera said in a statement. “If the use of alternative energy sources like solar can produce bottom-line cost savings for other school districts or municipalities like it is projected to do for our school district, then this option may be beneficial.”

Beefing up state aid to school districts for these kinds of systems is a good thing, Haffel said in an interview this week.

“What would be really cool and to me would make sense — which would in the long run help every school district and every taxpayer — is to make all renewable work 100 percent aidable and that the school district would receive 100 percent state aid,” he said. “Now you have no electric bill, and you just helped out the taxpayer for the rest of their lives.”

School administrators in Huntington and Northport-East Northport have considered going solar.

Julia Binger, president of the Northport-East Northport school board, said her district had discussions in the past about going solar, but found it to be too cost prohibitive. With this new legislation, combined with what officials have said is a drop in price for solar panels, going solar is “a question that would be worth reconsidering,” Binger said.

In Huntington, school board member Tom DiGiacomo noted that the district’s aging roofs could make solar costly for the district. But it’s still worth considering, he said.

“I think that we need to look at renewable energy as a way to saving money for school districts,” he said. “Quite honestly, the state should be empowering the school districts and the taxpayers ultimately to find ways to save money by using [renewable] energy.”

Eight people are interested in running for two seats

File photo by Rohma Abbas

The weather isn’t the only thing warming up.

With eight people interested in two seats on the Democratic-controlled Huntington Town Board, local party leaders will soon have to roll up their sleeves to choose their picks for the slots.

On the Democratic side, incumbent Councilwoman Susan Berland (D) will seek a fifth term in office. Afghanistan war veteran and Northport-East Northport school district teacher Darryl St. George, of Centerport tossed his hat into the ring earlier this year. Huntington Business Improvement District President Keith Barrett, of Melville, is taking a second stab at nomination after screening for Town Board in 2013. And political science adjunct professor Jim Kelly, of Huntington, who is a retired Nassau County Police Department EMS supervisor, also plans on screening.

The Democrats are screening candidates next week, according to Huntington Town Democratic Committee Chairwoman Mary Collins.

Republicans have already screened Jim Leonick, an East Northport attorney, Janet Heller-Smitelli, a Huntington attorney and Jennifer Thompson, a Northport resident and member of the Northport-East Northport school board. They’ll also screen Independence Party member and incumbent Councilman Gene Cook (I), who said he’s seeking his final term.

The party plans to host another round of screenings tomorrow evening, Toni Tepe, Huntington Town Republican Committee chairwoman said, where she expects two more individuals to screen.

Election Day is Nov. 3.

Susan Berland
Berland, of Dix Hills, has been in office since 2001. During her time in office, she’s sponsored legislation regulating bamboo and blight in Huntington Town, and she spearheaded the effort to televise all official town meetings, according to her bio on the town’s website.

The councilwoman is a member of the Huntington Lighthouse Preservation Society, Kiwanis Club of Huntington and the Board of Directors of the International Dyslexia Association of Long Island.

This election is still important, despite the fact that the Democrats control four out of five seats on the board, Berland said.

“I think every election year is crucial. It takes the town in a specific direction. I want to keep it in a positive direction both, economically and realistically.”

Gene Cook
An Independence Party-member, Cook, 53, of Greenlawn, is seeking the nod for a second four-year term on the board. If elected, Cook said it would be his last term in office. He said he believes in term limits, and that board members shouldn’t serve more than two terms.

Asked why he’s running, Cook said he has taken issue with the way the Democratic majority has spent money. He said he’s proud of projects he’s been able to do at no cost to the taxpayer, like getting a group of businesses together to pave the parking lot of the VFW Post 1469 Nathan Hale in Huntington Station.

“I don’t want the children of the future to be paying for our mistakes and I believe that’s the way it’s going,” he said.

Darryl St. George
St. George, 32, a Democrat from Centerport, declared that he is running for the board earlier this year, and is open to waging a primary election if the party does not choose him. A local teacher and veteran, St. George, 32, served as a Navy corpsman with the U.S. Marines and is interested in tackling the “the scourge of addiction” on a townwide level, he said in an interview earlier this year. The cause is personal, as he lost his 21-year-old brother, Corey, to a drug overdose. The tragedy expedited his release from the Navy in 2012. St. George also teaches social studies at Northport High School.

“I think there’s a few reasons why I want to run,” he said in the earlier interview. “Service is a big part of it: My time in the Navy, my time as a teacher has taught me to value my service to the community.”

Jim Leonick
Leonick, 53 and a Republican, said he wants to run because he has an interest in the future of the town for his children and his neighbor’s children. Leonick is concerned about overdevelopment, transparency at town hall and is interested in exploring term limits for council people — “because I don’t think that it’s right for a number of reasons for anyone to be in a position for as long as some of the town council people have been in their offices.”

Leonick is an attorney with a practice Leonick Law, PLLC, located in East Northport. He’s been involved in a number of local organizations, including serving as a Boy Scout leader, a past president of the Rotary Club of East Northport and a past board member of the East Northport Chamber of Commerce, among others.

“I’ve been involved in a lot of different community things and now I think its time to run for office.”

Keith Barrett
This would be Barrett’s second stab at the nomination, after losing out to Councilwoman Tracey Edwards (D) in 2013. Barrett, 49, of Melville currently works at town hall as the deputy director of general services. He also owns Barrett Automotive in Huntington Station and is the leader of the Huntington Station Business Improvement District — a group he’s belonged to for 11 years — where he said he’s worked to unify the community and beautify the neighborhood.

At town hall, he said he’s learned a lot about budgets and has already made changes in the General Services Department that have saved taxpayers money. For example, he streamlined state inspections of town vehicles through investing in an inspection machine and getting employees certified in motor vehicle inspections. “I’m a business guy,” he said. “Running town hall is a business. I’d like to make it easier for the residents and businesses to be able to facilitate government.”

Janet L. Heller-Smitelli
Heller-Smitelli is a civil litigator who has lived in Huntington for more than 20 years. She screened with Republicans to run for either Suffolk County Legislature — the 17th Legislative District seat held by Lou D’Amaro (D-North Babylon) — or for Town Board. In a statement, she said she’s been active with the Boy Scouts and has served as an assistant scoutmaster.

Heller-Smitelli said she’s been a member of the Republican committee for 10 years. She said she’s running because she believes there needs to be a “fresh vision and renewed spirit” when it comes to the issue of development.

“I am interested in running for office in order to advance my belief that the Town of Huntington needs to be more selective in the development and use of vacant and available parcels of land. Too often we have seen the result of inappropriate and short-sighted projects that result in a drain of our resources and adversely affect our infrastructure.”

Jim Kelly
Kelly, 64, a Democrat, is a Huntington Station resident. He is a retired EMS supervisor with the Nassau County Police Department and is currently an adjunct professor of political science at St. Joseph’s College.

Kelly said he has experience in emergency management — at Nassau County’s Office of Emergency Management, he served as bioterrorism coordinator, where he learned the ins and outs of being prepared for acts of terrorism and natural disasters.

Kelly’s passionate about preserving open space, because he feels it is disappearing.

If elected, Kelly would like to focus on the issue of crime and gangs in Huntington Station and said the way to battle the problem is to provide educational alternatives for youth. He also said he’d partner with state and county officials to offer greater drug rehabilitation and mental health counseling programs.

“Because of the issues in Huntington Station, the entire town is getting a bad rap in the media. It’s not justified and it’s not right.”

Jennifer Thompson
A Northport resident, Thompson screened with the Huntington Town Republican Committee on March 31.

Thompson sits on the Northport-East Northport school board. She first got on the board in 2010, after being appointed to complete former Vice President Arlene Munson’s term. She was re-elected to another three-year term on the school board last year.

In an interview last year, Thompson said she wanted to serve on the board again because she wanted to see some projects through, namely getting the district through a tax assessment challenge on the Northport power plant from the Long Island Power Authority. If it is resolved in favor of LIPA, Northport-East Northport school district residents could see a drastic increase in property taxes, as LIPA would contribute a smaller chunk to the tax pool.

Thompson didn’t return calls seeking comment.

This version corrects a quote by Keith Barrett.

A sign at Congressman Lee Zeldin’s press conference in Comsewogue on Sunday, April 12, speaks against standardized testing. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

Congressman Lee Zeldin announced to Comsewogue teachers, parents and students on Sunday that he is working on a way to reduce state testing, amid a renewed local push against the standardized exams.

The Student Testing Improvement and Accountability Act, which Zeldin (R-Shirley) is co-sponsoring, has “strong bipartisan support,” he told the crowd at Comsewogue High School. “This legislation would roll back state-mandated testing to pre-No Child Left Behind levels.”

Congressman Lee Zeldin talks about a bill that would reduce standardized testing during an event in Comsewogue on Sunday, April 12, as Superintendent Joe Rella looks on. Photo by Victoria Espinoza
Congressman Lee Zeldin talks about a bill that would reduce standardized testing during an event in Comsewogue on Sunday, April 12, as Superintendent Joe Rella looks on. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

The federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 required states to create assessments for basic skills in select grade levels. Before the controversial No Child Left Behind, New York State students were tested in both English language arts and math in three different grades, for six total tests. Now students take those exams each year in grades three through eight.

The Student Testing Improvement and Accountability Act aims to reduce the number of tests to previous levels — so they would be administered once in grades three to five, once in grades six through nine and once in grades 10 through 12 — based on the belief that it would allow for more curriculum flexibility, giving students more time to learn and helping to nurture their creativity.

Gina Rennard, a Comsewogue parent and wife of school board trustee Rick Rennard, has had her children “opt out” of the standardized tests, something many parents have done in opposition to the Common Core Learning Standards and linked state tests.

“These tests are developmentally inappropriate,” Gina Rennard said. “The grades for these tests come out after the students have already gone onto the next education level, therefore the tests have no bearing on their education plan. So why are we torturing them?”

Superintendent Joe Rella hosted the press conference, and said the only goal of testing is “to put public schools out of business and have [charter schools] for profit, because there is nothing about improvement here.”

Rella said he will not stop fighting for change.

The gathering came just a couple of weeks after Rella and Comsewogue school board members considered a proposal to refuse to administer state exams unless the state delivered more education aid and reduced the weight of student test scores on teacher and administrator evaluations. But after the idea created buzz in the community, the officials nixed the proposal on the advice of legal counsel.

Comsewogue Superintendent Joe Rella speaks against standardized testing during an event with Congressman Lee Zeldin on Sunday, April 12. Photo by Victoria Espinoza
Comsewogue Superintendent Joe Rella speaks against standardized testing during an event with Congressman Lee Zeldin on Sunday, April 12. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

State Education Law gives the education commissioner power to remove school officials from office if they willfully disobey rules or regulations, and withhold state aid from schools where such action takes place.

Patchogue-Medford Superintendent Michael Hynes said at the event that the pressure on both students and teachers is far too intense.

“If you look at countries whose education systems are performing well, they are doing the opposite of what we’re doing right now,” Hynes said. The crowd roared in agreement.

Jennifer Jenkins moved her family to Comsewogue because of the schools, but said she is no longer confident in the education her kids are getting.

“To have so much of the curriculum based on the testing forces the teachers to focus on standardized testing as a part of the year’s goal,” she said. “Then the teachers have less of an opportunity to build their own curriculum around what’s best for their individual students.”

Zeldin said he is optimistic about the bill’s future in Congress.

“This is where you hold your elected officials accountable, and we will make sure we are doing everything within our power up in Albany and down in Washington to do it on behalf of these kids.”

Town recycling program expands North Shore reach, teaming up with Huntington village to save money

A worker sorts through waste at Brookhaven Town's recycling facility. File photo

Smithtown linked up with yet another North Shore community this week as it expands its role in the single-stream recycling program on Long Island.

The town board voted Tuesday to allow an intermunicipal agreement with the incorporated Village of Lloyd Harbor for participation in its single-stream program, making Smithtown’s recycling team that much larger. The town has already teamed up with the neighboring Brookhaven Town and the Huntington village of Asharoken over the last several months.

Town officials said Lloyd Harbor Mayor Jean M. Thatcher approached Smithtown with hopes of getting its hands on the single-stream wealth. The village currently collects about 365 tons of recycling each year.

Smithtown Supervisor Patrick Vecchio (R) inked a deal with Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) earlier this year, buddying up to reduce waste by recycling more efficiently via Brookhaven’s new state-of-the-art facility, operated by Green Stream Recycling in Yaphank.

Under the single-stream system, residents can put all recyclables at the curb together, rather than sorting paper from bottles and cans. The result is more residents recycling more materials.

Russell Barnett, Smithtown’s environmental director, said Lloyd Harbor’s recycling will be added to Smithtown’s recyclables for shipment to the Brookhaven plant. Lloyd Harbor would not pay a tip fee, nor receive any revenue for the deal, Barnett said.

“Village residents would enjoy the convenience of single-stream recycling, mileage for the village truck would be reduced and the environment would benefit from increased recycling and reduced vehicle emissions,” he said in a statement. “Smithtown would retain the $15 per ton paid by Brookhaven for recyclables delivered to the Green Stream Recycling plant to cover handling and transportation costs.”

Barnett said the town has seen a dramatic increase in recycling since penning the Brookhaven deal. And the Lloyd Harbor agreement was not a new discussion either, as Barnett said Smithtown has already finalized similar agreements with the local villages of Asharoken, Nissequogue, Head of Harbor and The Branch.

“We’ve gotten a number of calls from residents expressing support for the new program as being more convenient to them,” Barnett said in an earlier interview. “It saves Smithtown money in many ways.”

Barnett said Smithtown’s expenses have gone down nearly $600,000 annually because of single-stream’s benefits. Since joining Brookhaven, Smithtown has been shipping its recyclable waste to the Yaphank facility instead of handling the materials within the town, costing more in labor expenses.

The single-stream recycling system, which has been nicknamed the Green Stream Machine, can process 48 tons of material per hour.

In June 2014, Brookhaven Town officials announced the town’s recycling rates had increased by nearly 25 percent since the program’s launch in January 2014, therefore saving taxpayers more than $287,000 to date.
Romaine said earlier this year that solid waste was an ongoing concern in the town of Brookhaven and single-stream helped to address that, increasing the overall amount of garbage being recycled by nearly 25 percent.

Old Homestead Road is one street in northern Port Jefferson ready for repaving after a harsh winter beat them up. Photo by Elana Glowatz

Following a snowy winter that punished local streets, leaving numerous potholes, Port Jefferson is kicking off the paving season with a few village roads that are in particularly poor condition.

The board of trustees approved Old Homestead Road and the adjacent Landing Lane, Cove Lane, Chips Court and the northern half of Sands Lane for repaving at its business meeting Monday night. The village is contracting with Suffolk Paving Corp. to redo the roads, at a total cost of almost $285,000.

Sands Lane is one street in northern Port Jefferson ready for repaving after a harsh winter beat them up. Photo by Elana Glowatz
Sands Lane is one street in northern Port Jefferson ready for repaving after a harsh winter beat them up. Photo by Elana Glowatz

“They are beyond — Old Homestead is in real bad shape,” Mayor Margot Garant said. “Sands Lane, Cove Lane, Landing [Lane] and Chips [Court] are completely falling apart.”

The roads are scheduled to be milled down on Thursday, with paving to follow a few days later, on April 13-14.

“It’ll be good to get some of these roads done,” Trustee Larry LaPointe said.

Though the five streets approved Monday will be the first in the village to get some TLC, they will not be the last — the board also approved a $25,000 transfer for the public works department from its storm sewer expenses to its street maintenance fund to help repair roads.

The section around Old Homestead is “in desperate need of paving” but village employees “will be working on additional roads using their own equipment, so the paving doesn’t stop there,” Garant said during the public forum portion of Monday’s meeting.

Pedestrians, like drivers, will see improvements during paving season — Garant said the village will be repairing sidewalks as well, including one on the frequently traversed Arden Place, which has municipal parking lots on either side.

The Sagtikos Parkway. Photo from NYSDOT

Members of the public will get to weigh in on the future of the Sagtikos-Sunken Meadow Parkway at two New York State Department of Transportation informational meetings next week.

The state department is seeking input for a Sagtikos State Parkway/Sunken Meadow Parkway Operational Study. The goal of the study is to “examine how the roadway functions, identify causes of traffic congestion and accidents and determine how the corridor will function in the future.”

According to the DOT, an average of 90,000 vehicles per day use the Sagtikos-Sunken Meadow State Parkway.

Residents, businesses, and all interested groups are encouraged to attend and provide input regarding the Sagtikos-Sunken Meadow Parkway Study within the towns of Islip, Babylon, Smithtown and Huntington, the department said in a statement.

The meetings will take place on Tuesday, April 14, and Thursday, April 16, 2015. The April 14 meeting is being held at Deer Park High School, 1 Falcon Place, Deer Park, between 6:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. The April 16 meeting is being held at William T. Rogers Middle School, 97 Old Dock Road, Kings Park, between 6:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m.

Study-area maps, traffic and accident data, and other related information will be on hand for review. State engineers and representatives will be available to answer questions and receive comments on this operational study.

“Input and suggestions from the local community are strongly encouraged,” according to a DOT statement.

Part of Andrea Drive in East Setauket needs to be repaired as of Tuesday. Photo by Elana Glowatz

By Julianne Cuba

Following another devastating winter on Long Island, Brookhaven Town is receiving a little boost from the New York State Department of Transportation’s Extreme Winter Recovery fund for the year 2015-16, Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R) has announced.

The Highway Department will receive more than $501,000, while last year it received more than $400,000 in recovery funds in order to improve Brookhaven’s infrastructure. Prior to 2014, the town had not received any additional funding recovery funds for road damage.

“I want to thank the Long Island delegation for working with me on securing this desperately-needed funding for Brookhaven,” Losquadro said in a press release. “The past two winters have been historically harsh and wreaked havoc on town roadways. The more funding we receive, the more roads we can pave.”

Part of Pleasant Drive in East Setauket needs to be repaired as of Tuesday. Photo by Elana Glowatz
Part of Pleasant Drive in East Setauket needs to be repaired as of Tuesday. Photo by Elana Glowatz

In a phone interview, Losquadro said he is continuing to look for other sources of revenue from all levels of government in order to offset the cost to local taxpayers, whether in grants or funding from the federal government.

“There’s easily five times the amount of work that needs to be done that I have money for … maybe even six or seven times,” he said.

Within the next week — hopefully by April 15 — Losquadro said he hopes the resurfacing of the roads will start, weather permitting. Like last year, the work will likely continue right up until November, he said.

For the past two years, Losquadro said the town has been able to repair about 60 miles of roadway each year.

“I’m hoping to be able to match that, if not surpass that, this year,” he said. “If we’re able to get a little extra money from New York State like we did last year, every dollar we get is another roadway I can do.”

Losquadro said “it’s not dollar to dollar,” and if he can get assistance in paying for other projects that the Highway Department would have otherwise had to fund, then he could repurpose that money for roadway paving.

He referenced the traffic safety grant, which had been awarded for North Country Road in Miller Place, as an example of money that will now be free to allocate for repaving elsewhere in the town.

“That [grant] money will allow us to redo that section of roadway, a lot of the work we would have had to do there will now be covered by that grant,” he said. “That’s an award that’s already been awarded. We are seeking grants on all levels. We are looking for sources from revenue and assistance from everywhere we can.”

Losquadro said that advocating for additional funds for the resurfacing of roads is generally not normal, but there is just not enough money in the budget.

“While we were certainly not happy to see another severe winter, I am happy that we’re able to provide additional funding. State representatives listened to myself and other highway superintendents and were able to secure additional funding again this year,” he said.

Smithtown Assistant Planning Director David Flynn says a potential shopping center near the Smith Haven Mall could add to an excess of neighborhood business zoning in the town. Photo by Phil Corso

A proposal to rezone part of Route 347 near the Smith Haven Mall has the town Planning Department mulling over its roster of retail.

In November, the town board considered at public hearings proposals to construct a 30,500-square-foot building on Route 347 near Alexander Avenue in Nesconset along with another 3,100-square-foot building on Middle Country Road, making way for a potential shopping center to house restaurants and small office space, attorney David N. Altman said. But Smithtown’s Assistant Planning Director Dave Flynn approached the town board at a work session Tuesday morning to ask members to consider the application’s potential impacts, given an already robust level of business zoning in town.

Flynn said he and the Planning Department staff delved into the potential shopping center when its applicant, Sun Enterprises, Inc., asked for a rezoning for the area from residential, single-family to neighborhood business. The department then drafted a memo to the town board recommending the property be developed into garden apartments instead of retail because of what Flynn cited as a possible overabundance of business zoning in the town.

“I felt it was my obligation to speak with you,” Flynn said to Smithtown Supervisor Pat Vecchio (R), Councilman Tom McCarthy (R) and Councilman Ed Wehrheim (R) at the work session. “If the town board felt this should be explored, I would contact the property owner. It’s hard to measure the damage it would do.”

Vecchio, McCarthy and Wehrheim heard Flynn’s considerations for the future zoning of the area, but leaned more on the side of following through with what the board and the applicants had already started.

“The applicant did his due diligence, and I think we should do ours,” McCarthy said.

Wehrheim also said he had similar sentiments.

“The applicant went through a lot to get to this point,” he said. “And now we are going to change our minds?”

The town board heard public hearings at its Nov. 20 meeting to consider the shopping center, which Altman said would create anywhere from 20 to 50 construction jobs and 20 to 50 permanent full-time jobs. The applicant was asking for the rezoning of three separate lots into one business lot, which Altman said could increase the overall real property taxes generated for the site from $25,000 a year to anywhere from $180,000 to $225,000.

Frank Filiciotto, a hired civil engineer and traffic planner, also spoke to the board at the November meeting and said the potential development would draw from existing traffic in the area and wouldn’t significantly impact the number of cars traveling along Route 347.

“It’s important to note that all three driveways will be right in, right out driveways,” he said. “There’s no conflicting left turning maneuvers in and out of these sites. So what it does is, it draws from the traffic that’s already on the streets.”

Some residents concerned as village votes to allow larger budget increase

Port Jefferson Village is crafting its budget for next year. File photo by Elana Glowatz

Port Jefferson Village officials have a green light to override the state’s cap on its tax levy next year, if necessary.

The board of trustees voted 4-1, with Trustee Bruce Miller dissenting, to allow themselves to pierce the cap — as the group has done each year since the state law restricting tax levy increases was enacted.

In the next budget cycle, the village has a 1.68 percent state-imposed cap on its tax levy increase, according to Treasurer Don Pearce. But tentative budget figures would increase the levy — and thus taxes — by 4 percent.

The latter increase would translate to the average Port Jefferson homeowner paying about $37 more next year in village property taxes.

During a public hearing on the matter Monday night, a few residents railed against the prospect of busting through the cap.

“This is just not tolerable,” Molly Mason said about tax increases.

And Matthew Franco pointed to what he saw as wasteful expenditures, such as what the village spent on exploring uses for the Port Jefferson marina, which it had hoped to purchase from Brookhaven Town before the deal fell through. He spoke against the officials’ idea “to come to us and say, ‘Look, we want to go over the cap again.’”

According to Pearce, the tentative budget totals almost $10.3 million. In order to meet the levy cap, instead of piercing it, the village would have to shave more than $140,000 in expenses or bring up revenues that amount.

Mayor Margot Garant said the board would work to reduce that sum, what she called a “gap.” She also noted that the village uses $400,000 from its fund balance each year to keep down resident taxes, a measure she said the village would take again next year.

During recent budget workshops, the board has pored over budget lines, slashing more than $300,000 in proposed expenses. The trustees have also contended with increases in mandated expenditures.

“I don’t know many businesses that go year to year with only a 1.68 percent increase in expenditures,” Trustee Larry LaPointe said. “If you’ve got a union contract, which we do, and there are built-in increases to all your employees’ salaries in that union contract, you’re going to have budget increases unless you fire people and reduce services.”

He added that he did not think there would be resident support for reducing services.

The village will hold a public hearing on a finalized 2015-16 budget on April 15.

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