Bellport presents budget with 7.7 percent increase
Following a work session Monday night, Bellport Village officials held a public hearing to review and discuss their proposed 2018-2019 budget.
In February, the board voted unanimously to pierce the tax cap after preliminary budget work sessions showed fiscal increases. Officials are proposing a $4,365,271 budget, a half-million-dollar increase from last year’s $3,778,315.
Bellport officials did not raise taxes last year.
The average homeowner would see taxes raise $144 as the tax rate moves from $4.38 per $100 assessed value to $4.72, a 7.7 percent increase. “If your house is above the average assessment, [taxes] will go up a little more,” Fell said at the meeting.
Increases come mainly from a contractual 3 percent pay raise for union employees and an additional $61,000 in employee benefits and retirement. Village treasurer James Amoroso noted that a $54,163 increase in refuse collection accounts for rising landfill fees (for the first time since 2014), salaries and a garbage truck that was purchased last spring.
Amoroso said that the overall net increase of $587,000 from last year also increases debt principal interest payments. Money nearing $90,000 was set aside for those payments in anticipation of a BAN to be sought later this year, Amoroso said.
Nearly $20,000 more will be spent on buildings and code, bringing the total budget to $120,045. “[Building and safety inspections] have gotten a little more expensive for the support there and also we’re going to have to provide training for our personnel,” Amoroso said. He added that the public safety budget includes an increase for recently installed security cameras. “They require a significant amount of maintenance and replacement in some cases,” he added.
Expenses for the highway improvement program will also rise, from $42,000 last year to $119,658 this year. Amoroso said that figure was calculated based on the recently approved state budget. That money is expected to be reimbursed by the state through the CHIP initiative.
The village has also budgeted for a new street lighting program to install cost- and energy-efficient LED bulbs. “We budgeted $15,000 for replacement and this is the first year we’re doing it,” Fell said, adding that it would likely be a three-or-four-year project. “We’ll start with $15,000 this year and we won’t increase the budget next year. We’ll keep doing $15,000 until all of the street lights in the village have been changed to LED lighting, which will help save on electric costs,” he explained.
Additional funds will be spent on more code enforcement hours. “That will help with what we think we’re going to need as far as the [rental] registration of homes and checking in on those types of situations,” Fell said.
One additional village hall employee will also be hired, he said, and will be shared between the treasurer and clerk’s office. Having the extra set of hands would allow Amoroso to devote more time to strategic planning. “I think it’s something the village needs to do,” Fell said. The employee would also help the village address shortcomings on its website.
Village debt is expected to decrease by $585,000, dependent on a FEMA reimbursement for work completed at Ho-Hum Beach. According to Fell, that repayment would continue reducing village debt for the fourth consecutive year, bringing debt down to $925,000.
Public improvements include several pending highway yard projects. “It’ll be much more environmentally friendly at the highway yard,” Fell said. The village expects to seek a BAN for the drainage project and will either BAN or bond the remaining projects. Several projects also include floating docks at Ho-Hum Beach, new lockers, and an entry gate at the country club. Fell said that the ferry needs repainting but would likely not be done until next year. “We have $58,000 in ferry reserves, so when we’re ready to do that, we have the money,” he said. “It won’t affect the budget.”
Lastly, the board discussed remaining amenity fees. Tennis fees will remain unchanged and the board is still split on charging $100 for a boat sticker that would allow boaters to dock at Ho-Hum Beach. Trustee Steve Mackin, citing conversations with village boaters, said there is strong opposition to the plan. Ferrigno argued that the fee is necessary and should be equitable to money lost on operating the ferry and ocean beach. “I think it should be $250,” Ferrigno said. “If we do that, I can guarantee you’ll see a mooring field of boats,” Mackin replied. With only 56 stickers distributed last year, Mackin argued that charging for the sticker would not have a huge impact on revenue. “Hopefully, we can come to a decision [by the April meeting],” Fell said.
The next village board meeting will be held on April 23 at 7 p.m.
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