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Sea Cliff board of trustees unveils 2021-22 budget

Trustees talk outdoor dining, marijuana dispensaries

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The Village of Sea Cliff board of trustees unanimously adopted its roughly $6.3 million budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year at a public hearing on Monday night, an increase of about $81,000 over the current spending plan.

The village’s tax levy will be roughly $5.6 million, $7,517 less than the state’s tax cap allows. The average homeowner will see his or her village tax bill increase by $55.

“As with any budgetary process,” Mayor Elena Villafane said, “the goal is to cover our municipal costs while maintaining service at levels of excellence, provide for the maintenance and care of our parks and recreational services, assure that all services are provided for our residents — both children and senior citizens — maintain a high-quality emergency and fire response department, maintain reserves to ensure village viability in the event of emergencies, and accomplish all of the above at the lowest possible cost.”

Every municipality in New York has suffered financially due to the coronavirus pandemic, Villafane said, and the expenses associated with emergency response and financial fallout have been “staggering.” Although the state reduced financial aid to local governments last year, she said, it could be restored in 2021-22 thanks to the federal government’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. That could be crucial, Villafane said, because the village anticipates reduced revenues from other sources such as mortgage taxes, court fines and beach fees.

“The mayor and the board of trustees are fully aware of the financial situation facing our residents and the potential ongoing effects of the Covid-19 situation,” the mayor said. “That’s why this budget was carefully reviewed, with the goal of finding every cut, savings and efficiency that could be achieved.”

Following the adoption of the budget, the board unanimously approved allowing restaurants on Sea Cliff Avenue to extend outdoor dining onto the street from this Friday through May 1. Like last spring and summer, restaurants will be permitted to put tables on the street on Friday and Saturday nights. Villafane added, however, that the village planned to make the process more aesthetically pleasing than last year, using planters with palm trees to block off the road from cars, in addition to orange barrels and sawhorses.

The board also discussed the possibility of marijuana dispensaries coming to Sea Cliff, following the stage’s legalization of the recreational use of cannabis. Although it will be an ongoing discussion throughout the year, Villafane said, the village must decide by Dec. 31 whether it will allow dispensaries to operate in town.

Deputy Mayor Dina Epstein said she didn’t think the village should opt out. Dispensaries, she said, are inevitably going to open someplace else, so it would make sense for Sea Cliff to see some of that sales revenue. The shops would function like liquor stores, she said, with ID checks helping to prevent minors from purchasing marijuana.

“If we had a dispensary that was in an area that we’ve deemed appropriate and we can do that, we can zone for it,” Epstein said. “Then I think that’s the ideal situation.”

Trustee Nick Pinto said the village could consider creating a special district in which dispensaries could operate, to keep them away from high-traffic areas like Sea Cliff Avenue.

While no decision on dispensaries was made during the meeting, trustees said they wanted to address where smoking would be permitted. Under the new state law, marijuana can legally be smoked wherever it is legal to smoke cigarettes. The only place in the village where cigarette smoking is illegal, Villafane said, is at Sea Cliff Beach.

Trustee James Versocki said he would support restricting smoking within a certain distance of village property — and especially the library, he said, where children are often present.