Village board preps for piercing tax levy cap

Village board preps for piercing tax levy cap

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.