Northport Village trustees presented the tentative budget
for the 2014-15 year Tuesday, which represents the lowest tax increase in 15 years;
however, the spending plan still pierces the tax levy cap.
The proposed budget for the 2014-15 year is $18,837,596, representing an increase of about $4.7 million from the current year’s spending plan. However, the tax rate for the average Northport Village homeowner will only increase by $1.60 per $100 of assessed value. That is a 2.68 percent tax rate increase from this year’s rate, the lowest since 1999, Deputy Mayor Henry Tobin said.
While the proposed tax rate increase is the lowest in more than a decade, the budget still exceeds New York State’s 2-percent tax levy cap. That is partly because once the 2-percent tax levy limit is adjusted for PILOTS, local government functions and exclusions, the capped tax levy increase set for the upcoming fiscal year is 1.7 percent. Northport Village’s tax levy surpasses the capped figure by about $125,000.
The Village board voted to approve a local law authorizing a property tax levy in excess of the capped limit at its Dec. 17 meeting.
The largest portion of taxpayer money in the budget, if passed as is, will be spent on home and community service, including the sewer system and wastewater treatment plant updates, which represents 24 percent of taxpayer dollars in the proposed budget. Employee benefits also make up a large portion of the budget. Employee benefits are expected to increase by $160,614 in 2014-15.
The cost of public safety, including the Northport fire and police departments, is expected to increase by about $392,000, representing 18 percent of taxpayer money in the proposed budget. A consultant for the village said that those increases are mainly due to contract increases and rising medical costs due to rate increases.
Trustee Thomas Kehoe, who is the commissioner of commerce and head of police and sanitation, said that the Village renegotiated its contact with the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association last year. He explained that while the contract has been publically criticized, the negotiations would save taxpayers an enormous amount of money over the long term.
Much of those savings, he said come with a 12-step pay increase plan, which lowers the starting salary of officers and spreads out raises over 12 years, so that an officer would not reach top pay until that time. Kehoe said that the new step system saves the village $180,000 for each new officer hired. It also provided for the first health insurance contribution plan for new members, which he said saves an additional $3,000.
In addition, the contract provides an incentive for more senior members to retire, which allows the Village to hire younger patrol officers at a lower cost. After 32 years on the job, an officer’s pension maxes out, making it more attractive for the highest paid members to retire, he said.
There is also a line item change in the budget this year, in which the franchise fees section of the budget, also known as PILOTS, will be rolled into the real property tax budget line. Deputy Mayor Henry Tobin said that the amount of the fees will not change, but that revenue will now be subject to the tax cap. That change is a contributing factor in the proposed budget’s exceeding of the cap, however the Village board decided to make the switch after it was recommended by the State Comptroller’s office to do so.
A formal public hearing on the 2014-15 Village budget will be held Jan. 14 at 6 p.m. in Village Hall. Budget packets can be picked up in Village Hall, at 224 Main St., Northport.