Village approves budget, tax hike

By a 4-to-1 vote, Greenport Village Board members approved a $2.89 million general fund budget Monday night that will raise property taxes by 2.36 percent. The new budget will cost the average village taxpayer an additional $20 per year at the tax rate of $18.13 per $100 of assessed valuation.

Trustee Chris Kempner voted against the budget. Last week, she encouraged her fellow board members to hold the tax rate or begin to roll it back. Trustee Michael Osinski tried to do just that Monday night when he introduced a resolution calling for a 1 percent rollback in taxes.

His resolution was rejected by a 3-to-2 vote, with Mayor David Nyce and Trustees George Hubbard and Mary Bess Phillips voting against the cut. When it came time for the final budget vote, Mr. Osinski went with the majority.

“I made my effort,” he said in a telephone interview Tuesday morning. “I guess I got caught up in the moment.” He said he’s often “characterized as being disruptive” and felt he didn’t have a chance of defeating the budget but, in retrospect, wished he had voted against it.

“I don’t like the budget,” he said, arguing that it could have been cut. He cited payments to the firemen’s pension fund, saying it didn’t have to be fully funded this year.

Mr. Hubbard, a fire department member, said an error was made last year when the department budgeted $165,000 for the pension fund; that figure was an estimate and the actual cost was $215,000. An envelope containing the actual billing wasn’t discovered until October, Mr. Hubbard said. Department members decided to bite the bullet and cover the error this year, rather than stretch it over a few years, he said. That’s because the program is generally at least 75 percent funded and Greenport’s contributions had dropped to about 65 percent, something that doesn’t sit well with the actuaries, he said.

Residents Bill Swiskey and John Saladino argued for a tax cut Monday night, again questioning why the board didn’t use money from its $1.2 million fund balance to limit the impact on taxes. Resident Steve Weiss said some money could be taken from the Mitchell Park Marina personnel budget to avoid a tax hike.

Mr. Nyce argued that between now and May 31, the end of the current fiscal year, much of the fund balance is likely to be used to pay bills and fund necessary purchases that department heads delayed until they could be sure enough money remained in their 2009-10 budgets.

The village also needs to retain money in its contingency fund to cover unexpected expenses such as more road salt and sand should there be another difficult winter next year. The 2010-11 budget is so tight that without the contingency fund, there might not be enough money to cover expenses in the next fiscal year, the mayor said.

He said marina workers are also taking on responsibility for the public bathroom and other park maintenance and he didn’t think the personnel budget was inflated.

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