Sag Harbor Village’s latest 2019-2020 budget figure, if adopted by the Board of Trustees, would rise above the state-mandated cap on tax levy increases for the first time since New York State enacted the tax cap legislation in 2012.
During a public hearing Friday, held specifically to address the subject of the tax cap, village officials unveiled their latest budget proposal: an $11.45 million spending plan that has crept up again since the last time it was presented. Previous drafts of the budget came in at $11.26 million in February and $11.27 million in early March.
Under the $11.45 million budget proposal, the tax levy increase is projected at 8.51 percent. According to village treasurer Rhonda Meserole, that’s about 1.06 percent higher than the village’s allowed levy increase of 7.45 percent. She said the levy increase is different from the “2 percent tax cap” language that most people are used to hearing because of factors such as real estate development within village borders that equates to rising assessments, which boost the village’s potential tax levy increase.
Year over year, the $11.45-million budget is a proposed spending increase of 5.03 percent.
“We always end up raising them somewhere between 1 and 1.5 percent,” village trustee Ken O’Donnell said. “They’ve all been pretty close to austerity budgets. There’s not much meat left on the bones.”
Even with the tax levy increase, the projected tax rate of $2.614 per $1,000 of assessed value is a slight decrease from the current year’s tax rate of $2.72. That means a house assessed at $795,000 would pay about $87 less in taxes next year.
Changes from the previous budget presentation include $5,000 more for fire department equipment maintenance and $12,425 more for fire department liability insurance. There’s a new $4,000 expenditure for utilities, repairs and maintenance of the vehicle impound yard currently being built, $10,000 more for highway department salaries and $13,000 more for contracted services in zoning, planning and architectural review.
The village is still weighing the addition of a full-time paramedic’s salary and benefits for the Sag Harbor Volunteer Ambulance Corps. The corps currently has a handful of part-time paid paramedics, but Missie Hesler, its vice president, says it is constantly struggling to retain those paramedics when full-time opportunities pop up in other places. “We’re the only one out here that doesn’t have a full-time paid person,” Ms. Hesler said.
A separate budget for the village’s sewer fund, which is only paid for by property owners connected to the wastewater treatment plant, is proposed at $788,361, a year-over-year spending increase of 4.81 percent.
Following the public hearing the village board voted 4-0, with trustee James Larocca absent, to adopt a resolution allowing them to pierce the tax cap if need be. The budget is not finalized, and can still be changed; the board has until May 1 to formally adopt the 2019-2020 budget.
The village will hold a formal public hearing on its entire budget and sewer fund on Tuesday, April 9, at 6 p.m.