Taxes for village homeowners will rise about $100 next year under the budget approved by the Valley Stream Board of Trustees on Monday night.
The 2013-14 spending plan totaling $35.4 million was approved 4-1 with Trustee Vincent Grasso voting against it. Grasso did, however, vote along with the rest of the board to adopt a local law allowing the village to exceed the 2 percent tax cap.
The tax levy will rise by 4.5 percent, meaning a $104 annual increase in taxes for the average home. Mayor Ed Fare said this is necessary to preserve all services that the village offers. “Since we are all residents, we know this is a difficult choice to make,” he said, adding that the tax hike equates to about $9 per month.
Fare said the village is being saddled with unfunded mandates, specifically increases to its pension and health insurance costs. Combined, those two items are rising more than a half-million dollars next year.
To balance the budget, the village will be using about $785,000 from its reserves. Officials said if they didn’t do this, the tax increase would be double. Budget consultant John Mastromarino said Valley Stream still has plenty of money in the bank, but wants to avoid continuing to rely on hefty amounts of reserves to make ends meet.
“You budget for it, but you don’t have to use it,” Fare said. “I’m hoping that we get more revenue than projected and we’ll be less dependent upon the fund balance.”
Grasso said the primary reason he voted against the budget was because he is concerned about the amount of reserves being used. Going forward, he said the village needs to do more to curb spending and that requests from department head need to be more closely scrutinized.
The village also approved a retirement incentive on Monday night. Eligible employees who retire between June 1 and Dec. 31 will be able to receive a one-time payment. Officials said this is being done to reduce the size of the workforce. Fare noted that the number of full-time employees is down 4 percent in the past two years, but would like to cut further.
“The board has recognized that we need to trim the workforce,” Fare said. “The best way to do that is through retirement and attrition.”
Details of the incentive are still being finalized with the union, however the village has proposed paying a retiring employee 1 percent of their salary per year of service to Valley Stream in a lump-sum payment.
Grasso, who expressed his reservations about a retirement incentive at a budget work session a week earlier, voted for it on Monday night. “I wanted to make my voice was heard,” he said, “but at the same time I don’t want to tie the mayor’s hands in trying to achieve these savings. I want to give him every tool possible.”
A retirement incentive can only be effective, Grasso said, if positions remain vacant once someone leaves.
Despite a full courtroom at Monday night’s hearing, there was little comment from the public except for some questions on specific budget lines.
The village’s 2013-14 budget takes effect on June 1.