Resistance to mayor

04/22/2010 12:00 AM |

Arguing that his proposed $2.89 million budget is “conservative,” Greenport Mayor David Nyce is appealing to Village Board members to endorse his call for a 2.36 percent tax hike to pay for it. But he’ll get opposition Monday night from at least two board members, Trustees Chris Kempner and Michael Osinski, who this week called for a budget with no tax increase.

“Either keep it flat or start rolling it back,” Ms. Kempner said at Monday night’s budget hearing. She spoke after former trustee David Corwin asked why the village needs a tax increase when it has $1.2 million in its fund balance.

“The budget as presented is extremely tight,” Mr. Nyce said. The $1.2 million isn’t all surplus because there are still bills to be paid in the current fiscal year, which ends May 31. The mayor also said it’s typical for there to be more expenses toward the end of the fiscal year when department chiefs make decisions to buy equipment they need, having put off purchases until they were sure they had the money.

“As good as the financial situation looks now,” Mr. Nyce said, the village has a lot of debt coming due. The small tax hike, which he said will cost the average taxpayer about $20 more a year, will enable the village to continue providing services and rebuilding its utilities without hurting residents, he said.

But Mr. Osinski argued that, in the current economic climate, the village should give residents a break from any increase.

“If we don’t need to raise taxes, it’s wise not to,” Mr. Osinski said.

Ms. Kempner called on the mayor to move forward on trying to sell what remains of the public water department, an idea the mayor has said he wants to pursue. Most of the water system was sold to Suffolk County Water Authority several years ago and what remains the water authority didn’t want at the time.

Former trustee Bill Swiskey also made a plea for selling the remaining part of the water system.

“All we are supporting is a dead duck on life support,” he said.

Ms. Kempner called for more effort to cut expenses and generate income.

One place the board wants to look to generate more income is at Mitchell Park Marina. Trustee Mary Bess Phillips and Mr. Osinski took marina manager Jeff Goubeaud to task for not drawing more business to the marina.

The main reason for hiring Mr. Goubeaud was to market the marina, Mr. Osinski said. Ms. Phillips told Mr. Goubeaud she was surprised that he hadn’t taken such steps as creating a Facebook page to attract boat patrons. She also asked why more large vessels aren’t using the marina.

Mr. Goubeaud said the electrical system at the docks would have to be upgraded to support any large craft for long stays.

Only two village residents questioned the board at any length about the budget.

John Saladino questioned a decision to cut back the harbormaster position from full to half-time, arguing that a village with a marine heritage should have a full-time harbormaster. Mr. Swiskey agreed.

The decision won’t affect Joe Angevine, who has been harbormaster for many years, since he has announced his intention to retire before the new budget takes effect.

Mr. Nyce and Mr. Osinski said the Southold Town bay constable can handle more of the work and that Mr. Angevine has had to call in the constable to write tickets that he isn’t authorized to write. Whoever is hired for the job will still be available on busy summer weekends, the mayor said.

Mr. Osinski, whose house overlooks Greenport Harbor, said he can attest to the town bay constable’s responsiveness.

Mr. Saladino suggested that the village is giving away space at the visitor’s dock when it should be charging for its use; he also said the baymen’s dock is being used by many who don’t make their living on the water.

That riled Ms. Phillips, who argued that fewer people are able to make a living fishing because of government-imposed quotas on their catches and that many had become part-timers out of necessity.

Despite his request to increase the budget to retain a full-time harbormaster, Mr. Saladino kept appealing to the board to find places to cut the budget further to avoid a tax hike.

Mr. Swiskey called on Village Board members to reject the health insurance Greenport offers as part of its employee compensation package. Only Trustee George Hubbard Jr. takes the insurance.

“The budget stinks; it’s a clown act,” Mr. Swiskey said at the first budget hearing April 15. He complained about what he said was excess hiring in the highway department when other departments are too tightly staffed.

The board is expected to vote on the budget Monday night, but will first allow public comments for a third time.

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