Mayor David Nyce got his way Monday night, securing passage of his $2.89 million budget with a 2.5 percent tax hike — but not without a fight.
The Village Board voted 3 to 2 to approve the tax increase, with trustees Mary Bess Phillips and Chris Kempner objecting to making that decision without another public hearing. The budget itself was approved by a 4 to 1 vote, with only Ms. Kempner voting no.
The action came after village attorney Joseph Prokop told the board that failure to adopt a budget by May 2 would result in the tentative budget becoming permanent.
The fate of the budget — $2,000 less than the current operating plan — was never in question. But the late addition of the suggested tax hike to pay down debt, coming only after two previous budget hearings had been held, struck a sour note with Village Board members as well as residents.
The increase will cost the average household an additional $12 in taxes.
“I really want to hear from the public,” Ms. Phillips said, arguing that another hearing should be held.
“You’re making a farce out of the budget process,” former trustee Bill Swiskey charged, also asking for another hearing.
At both of the board’s recent budget hearings, the mayor said he would keep the tax rate flat at $18.13 per $100 of assessed valuation, John Saladino said. He also objected to a hike without giving the public an opportunity to weigh in on it.
Mr. Nyce described his making no mention of a tax hike as “an unfortunate oversight on my part.” The mayor insisted he had always intended to introduce the tax hike proposal at the April 18 budget hearing. He defended the increase, saying that from the moment he was elected in 2007 he has fought to raise taxes to deal with the village’s substantial debt, stemming largely from the development of Mitchell Park.
Payments made to date have reduced that debt to between $3 million and $4 million, the mayor said. The budget included debt service payments for next year, but unless additional action is taken the village will fall short by $190,000 in the 2012-13 fiscal year, he said. The payments jump from about $600,000 to $700,000 a year in 2014, he said.
Village taxes rose 18 percent for the 2007-08 fiscal year.
Additional tax money raised during the last four years has been used to lower the debt, Mr. Nyce said in response to a question from Mr. Swiskey about where the funds are.
Mr. Nyce, who announced Monday that he will not seek a third term in 2015, said it would be easy to ignore the problem and “kick the can down the road” to the next administration. But with a looming shortfall, he added, the Village Board would still have to find some way of closing the gap.