Editor's Note: This article previously reported that Northport Village's recently passed budget did NOT exceed the two percent cap. The budget did in fact exceed the two percent cap.
Taxes will be going up by 4.97 percent for the 2013-14 year, as opposed to the 2.78 percent increase in the tax rate allowed under Gov. Andrew Cuomo's two-percent tax cap law. According to Deputy Mayor Henry Tobin, state-mandated increases in certain large expenditures, as detailed below, resulted in the cap exceedance. The mandated increases comprise over 90 percent of the budget.
In December, the board voted to give itself the authority to exceed the two-percent cap as a precaution against incurring hefty penalties.
Patch apologizes for the error and has edited the article to reflect the corrected information.
Northport passed a budget exceeding Cuomo's two percent tax cap on Tuesday, after voicing frustration at the inherent catch-22 presented by state mandates.
On display during the budget hearing in village hall was a large poster listing state mandate increases in social security, workers comp, police retirement, NYS retirement, and medical insurance adding up to double what is allowed under the two percent cap.
Such irreconcilable demands are the source of increasing frustration among municipalities who feel that the cap is ultimately a political move which only serves to pass the buck.
"We have no recourse," said Mayor George Doll. "We'd like to improve some of our beaches or parks, but we just can't do it. We work all year to pay this stuff."
The $14,110,779 budget calls for a calls for a 4.97 percent tax rate increase and a 4.46 percent tax levy increase, exceeding the state capped increase of 2.78 percent on the tax levy.
"It isn't strictly a two percent," explained Deputy Mayor Henry Tobin, "but gets modified by various factors and so the effective rate varies. This year it translates into a 2.78 percent increase on the tax levy," said Tobin.
Doll called it one of the most difficult budgets to compose in recent memory. "It leaves us with very little room for anything else such as the increase in cost of goods and services," he said, adding that it contains only what is absolutely necessary.
Under the 2013-2014 budget, there are no new vehicles, no new machinery, and no salary increases. When broken down, employee benefits (27 percent), public safety (21 percent), and general government support (14 percent) represent the top three expenditure categories.
Employee benefits, the largest expense in the budget, represent a 13.81 percent increase from last year, mostly due to increases in mandated items. Public safety will see a $75,000 decrease in expenditures this year, mostly due to officer retirement and new hires coming in at a lower rate. There will also be a decrease in police vehicle expenses, and in fire department equipment and miscellaneous expenses.
Doll said an additional problem this year are costs incurred from Hurricane Sandy, which will largely be paid off in the coming year. Though FEMA is expected to reimburse between 70 and 80 percent of expenses, the village has enough money in the reserve fund just in case.
"We're expecting to get some reimbursement but it's questionable," said Doll.
Tobin said that the village can anticipate that revenue will exceed expenses for the coming year if all goes well.
"Based upon everyone's best guess, we will have money that will come in that will be above our expenses for this year due in part to our reimbursement," said Tobin. "That which goes above goes into our reserves and that helps us meet unexpected challenges in the future."
In the future, however, expenses and state mandates seem like they will only keep growing, and consolidating departments and outsourcing services have become perennial topics in budget planning discussions as such strains increase.
Trustee Tom Kehoe said that one such cost-saving idea is to create a police district with Asharoken, which may be beneficial to both the village and the county. The county runs a police car that patrols Larkfield Road into Crab Meadow and Eatons Neck which takes about 5.4 police officers to patrol 24/7, he said.
"This type of consolidation is what Governor Cuomo hopes that municipalities will take a look at," he said, "but it's a tough situation."
The full 2013-2014 budget is available for download on the village's website.