The Northport Village Board of Trustees voted Tuesday to override the state's two percent tax cap law if necessary.
The law, restricts the growth in the tax levy to no more than two percent a year. Municipalities may vote to give themselves the authority to override the two percent cap prior to adopting a budget, thereby avoiding possible legal consequences from the state comptroller's office.
"This is really a prudent measure and does not mean the village is going to exceed a two percent increase," said Trustee Henry Tobin. He added that there may be various circumstances that necessitate exceeding the two percent cap, such as unforeseen circumstances or a computational mistake. Asharoken Village is also drafting legislation to override the two percent tax cap if necessary.
If the village adopts a budget exceeding the tax cap without giving itself the authority to do so, it may face levy challenges from the state comptroller, according to Village Attorney James Matthews. "No one's done that before," he added, "so there hasn't been an example of how they've dealt with it."
Last year, the board also voted to give itself the authority to exceed the cap and later adopted a budget that was within the two percent tax cap.
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The New York Conference of Mayors, or NYCOM, advised all municipalities to take this action, explained Mayor George Doll. He went on to say that the state underestimated contributions to the retirement system last year and the village would therefore have to come up with an additional $50,000 from the current budget.
Northport-East Northport Board of Education Member Joe Sabia was in attendance and said state mandates on retirement package contributions are increasing at a rate that will eventually bankrupt the village.
"We're going to have to start taking head counts at this village and see what we can really squeeze out on without hurting the public. If Suffolk County is willing to do our [police dispatches] for free it would save a lot of money," he said. "Yes, there will be people who scream, but you know what, the economy's real bad out there."
Tobin replied, "We have looked at what it would mean if we got rid of certain services. The general consensus each year on each item, for the people who have attended, is that we wish to keep the services we have."
The first public budget workshop was held Monday in Village Hall. "We're still waiting for a couple figures to be provided by the state," said Tobin. "It as a very preliminary look at the figures we have to date and it gave us a chance to go through a large majority of the general fund and to shape some questions.
The next public budget workshop will be held Thursday at 4:30 p.m.
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