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Mattituck Park District’s 2023 budget exceeds tax cap

The Mattituck Park District unanimously approved a proposed 2023 budget that pierces the 2% tax increase cap at its meeting last Thursday at Veterans Memorial Park.

The proposed 2023 budget of $682,000 is meant to achieve five vital objectives, according to a public notice. The park district requested the community’s help in passing the budget to avoid a “fiscal crisis.” 

“Mattituck Park District is facing an imminent fiscal crisis which would leave it unable to properly operate and maintain our nine properties spanning over 60 acres,” the district wrote in support of its budget proposal.

According to the notice, the district has been operating at a deficit for at least six years, offsetting costs by using an “appropriated fund” with a balance that will run out early next year unless there’s a significant increase in current tax revenue. Under the proposed 2023 budget, the district plans to raise a total $569,600 from tax revenue.

Passing the proposed budget, according to the notice, would restore the park district to financial self-sustainability, suspend reliance on cash balances for core operational expenses, augment support staff to align with operational demands, enable necessary improvements and restore a contingency reserve fund for emergencies..

Park district chairman Charles Gueli said the contingency reserve fund balance is currently less than $200,000. And according to district treasurer Lyle Girandola, this is an improvement from earlier in the year, when the fund was expected to be fully exhausted by normal operating expenses. Price increases and expense cuts this year have extended the life of this reserve, which Mr. Girandola now estimates will be fully depleted by late 2023. The park district hopes to avoid that through the proposed tax increase.

“We want to get [the reserve fund] up to $200,000. Right now it’s below $200,000 and by the end of the year, it’ll be even lower,” Mr. Gueli said. “We want to bring it up [to] $200,000, just in case we get another storm similar to Sandy where we have to do a lot of repairs.”

The district is also proposing necessary renovations to many of its properties, according to a presentation made at a June 28 meeting, as part of an effort to raise park maintenance standards, according to Mr. Gueli.

“In general terms, we think that the maintenance has to be brought up to a higher standard and the curb appeal of all the properties has to be improved,” he said. “We think that just getting everything maintained the way it’s supposed to be maintained would be the first priority.”

At that meeting, some members of the public suggested selling underutilized properties instead of raising taxes, but Mr. Gueli said that would be a temporary fix.

“The only real long-term solution is to raise the [tax revenues],” he said “I think that the properties they were talking about that are underutilized now­ — and there are several properties that are underutilized now — I think you could dream a little bit and envision what could be done with those properties and that’s the approach that should be taken rather than just to try and get rid of them.”

The proposed budget restores tax revenues to an amount equal to what was charged 10 years ago, according to the notice.

“In actual dollars, the average homeowner’s property tax will increase by $50 a year,” the park district wrote. “One dollar a week! This is sufficient revenue to support our operating budget and provide a solution with long-term solvency.”

A public vote on the budget is scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 18, from 3 to 8 p.m. at Veterans Memorial Park. Mr. Gueli encouraged everyone to vote.

“It’s an important vote. It really will determine how the park district can function in upcoming years,” Mr. Gueli said.

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