Village estimates levy to drop, but taxes to rise in 2015-16

Greenport Village treasurer Robert Brandt says residents will see a tax increase this year, despite the Village cutting back. (Credit: Paul Squire)
Greenport Village treasurer Robert Brandt says residents will see a tax increase this year, despite budget cutbacks. (Credit: Paul Squire)

Not only will Greenport Village’s budget remain under the state-mandated tax levy cap in 2015-16, but its levy will actually drop by about 1 percent, according to a preliminary budget presented at Tuesday night’s public hearing.

And yet, taxes are still set to go up.

That’s because the assessed value of village properties plummeted by nearly $160,000 to total about $4.91 million, mostly due to grievances and appeals that were ruled in the property owners’ favor.

The majority of that dip came from a decrease in assessed value at the village’s Hawkeye power plant, said Mayor George Hubbard.

“It’s the first time we’ve been hit with a big decrease,” he said. “That’s a big, big reduction.”

Because there’s less value throughout the village to tax, each taxpayer will now have to pay more to make up the difference, meaning a roughly 2.14 percent increase in local tax rates, Mr. Hubbard said.

“It’s spread around more for everybody,” he said.

In order to help offset the jump in taxes, Mr. Hubbard and the Village Board trimmed away about $34,000 from the original budget proposed by former Mayor David Nyce.

Village treasurer Robert Brandt said most of those savings came from an overestimation of the village’s retirement obligations. The rest came from “sheering” small cuts across the village’s budget lines, he said.

Mr. Nyce’s original budget called for a nearly 6 percent jump in the local tax rate, something Mr. Hubbard said would be unpalatable. The current increase is still too much for him, but Mr. Hubbard said it was better than sticking with the old rate.

“I think everyone is going to be able to live with that,” he said. “I would have liked to keep taxes at zero.”

The public hearing marked the first meeting of the new Village Board, which features two new members, Doug Roberts and newly appointed deputy mayor Jack Martilotta.

The board also faced questions from longtime Village Board watchdogs, including Bill Swiskey.

Mr. Swiskey pressed trustees about their health benefits, something he said could save the town enough money to fix local roads.

Mr. Roberts and Mr. Martilotta kept up their pledge not to take the benefits, and the other three trustees — including Mr. Hubbard — said that while they were currently taking the Village’s offer, they would likely be switching to different plans soon.

Mr. Brandt said that money was split between four funds, making it hard to spend it all in one place for something like a road bonding project, which Mr. Swiskey disagreed with.

But Mr. Hubbard said village administrators had already drafted a plan to make immediate repairs to roads in the village, which the board is expected to discuss at its first work session meeting on Thursday.

Mr. Swiskey also demanded the village include the budget for the Tall Ships event in its budget, saying the total cost, if the event is a failure, would be a burden the village would have to endure.

Mr. Brandt said it would be difficult to add the information into the budget. The event would fall near the beginning of a new fiscal year, meaning the village would have to “double-dip” to get the funds for the Tall Ships event out of the budget if it is successful.

Mr. Brandt noted that the Village Board will have to approve any money needed to pay for the Tall Ships event in a public resolution, and Mr. Hubbard promised to detail the event’s funding in full each month.

“The accounting will be straightforward and prompt,” Mr. Hubbard said.  “There’s not going to be any fuzzy math or anything else. This isn’t going to drag on for six months. We won’t allow it.”

“I appreciate that George,” Mr. Swiskey responded.

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