A tax increase for Patchogue Village

Story By: LINDA LEUZZI
4/12/2013


Patchogue village’s $12,919,737 budget, a 3.7 percent increase over last year’s, was approved Monday night, and will cost residents on average an estimated $68 per year for a single family household, representing a little under a $6 per month increase.

“There will be a spread regarding the increase based on the value of your home,” said Mayor Paul Pontieri.

“We exceeded the cap by $191,000,” explained Pontieri, who added that budgetary situations that had an impact, like the TRITEC and Clare Rose constructions underway, caused a reduction in the village’s assessed value of properties. That resulted in a $75,281 reduction in tax revenue.

 The village’s current assessed valuation is $52,187,968. 

TRITEC was scheduled for completion in April 2014, Pontieri said. The Riverwalk Clare Rose project should take three years to realize a significant return, although trustee Tom Ferb reported 13 closings already, with seven more imminent. Those residents pay property and refuse taxes monthly upon ownership.

 There were $38,000 in increased medical expenses, a $100,000 burden in snow removal expenses the town used to shoulder, and a 1 percent hike for the union contract, representing a contribution to health insurance, village treasurer Ron Krawczyk said.

The village’s $3.5 million surplus was tapped. “We took out $500,000 to reduce the tax increase,” Krawczyk said. That leaves Patchogue’s surplus at $2.9 million; the surplus was recently voted on by the village board to fund two vehicles for code enforcement as well as a pickup truck with a plow for the highway department for $100,000.00.

Trustee Gerry Crean questioned why more funds couldn’t be taken from the surplus. “I’m not suggesting taking $700,000 out, but maybe we could take out a bit more than $500,000. If you drop it down a notch, it won’t make a dent. The spread from AA3 to AA2 is very narrow.” 

“If we make a decision on Mascot Dock and [the Federal Emergency Management Agency] doesn’t give us the $500,000, where do we get the money?” Pontieri asked.

Later, Pontieri commented,  “we’ve increased taxes on a low level over the last several years and that’s increased our surplus. We’ve been flooded on the south end of the village two years in a row now and my expectation is that we’ll have these catastrophic weather situations over the next few years and we need to be prepared for it.”

The village took a $500,000 hit in costs expended for Superstorm Sandy debris removal, repairs, trucking material out of the village and the hiring of contractors. FEMA has not indicated the amount to be reimbursed; reconstruction for Mascot Dock, approximately $750,000 to $1 million, is still a dangling cost and not included in the $500,000.

“FEMA money should be available next year,” Krawczyk said. But the village’s anticipated reimbursement can’t be factored in the budget. 

“The state comptroller won’t allow us to put the receivable in reimbursement, which would probably lower the taxes, but we can’t do that,” stressed Pontieri. 

Increases in refuse services — $12 a year or 2 percent for a single family, 3 percent on a 2-to-3 family household and 5 percent for 4-plus family homes, representing $40,000 — were also imposed.

Pontieri said the village was applying to the county for sewer grants.

 “Right now, if you’re in a condo, they get charged as if they were a business,” he said. “We’ve asked H2M to come up with a way of budgeting this. The cost should be no more than one pump. We have $1 million from the New York State Dormitory Authority,” he said. We’re taking $800,000 out of our sewer surplus and we’ll be applying to the county for a $250,000 grant to repave the roads and run sewer lines on Sunset, Mapes, Price and River and try to correct the severe drainage problems we have. This will hopefully begin in the fall, if not, early spring.  The average household down there has 6, 7, 8 cesspools. It would stabilize the numbers and they would pay $239 to hook up.”

Crean suggested utilizing $30,000 in the Business Improvement District’s budget slated for dredging, towards code enforcement. “Their contribution to code enforcement is woefully under-funded,” he said. 

Deputy village treasurer Ann Marie Monte said there was also a percentage increase in code enforcement salaries, plus an increase in hours on Saturday and Sunday nights.

Crean, who was the lone dissenter on the budget vote, reiterated his thoughts about the surplus.

 “I’m in full agreement we shouldn’t reduce it so it would affect our credit rating,” he said. “But by drafting down it would have allowed us to remain under the 2 percent tax cap. If we drafted another $191,000 we would have wound up with a $2.8 million surplus.” Crean also noted, “the way we’re covering costs for code enforcement should be born by the business owners rather than the homeowners and there are certain salaried positions, not union contracts we could have reduced.” Crean is currently working with the chamber’s restaurant and tourism committee to address code enforcement costs.

But Pontieri countered, “Crean has had the budget over the better part of three weeks and has not spoken to myself, Ron Krawczyk or Ann Marie Monte about this, and it could have been discussed and maybe it would have come to a different conclusion. But his choice to not be involved in the process concerns me,” he said. 

Crean commented he had not reached out. “We were presented the budget a few weeks ago and there were small incremental increases across the board, but the easiest way to reduce it would have been to reduce the surplus,” he said. “It’s there for a rainy day and here it is a rainy day.

“They knew my position of not exceeding the 2 percent tax cap and by any measure I would have looked to stay within that limit.”