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Village Board approves budget within tax cap

REPORTER FILE PHOTO | Dering Harbor Mayor Tim Hogue said it had been possible to bring the budget in under the current year’s level because of a an employee salary freeze.

REPORTER FILE PHOTO | Dering Harbor Mayor Tim Hogue said it had been possible to bring the budget in under the current year’s level because of an employee salary freeze.

Dering Harbor residents will see a decrease of 1 percent in the 2014-2015 village budget, down $3,825 from the 2013-2014 budget of $322,505.

The board unanimously approved the $318,680 budget following a public hearing on Saturday morning, April 19, in Village Hall. Mayor Tim Hogue explained that a major reason it had been possible to bring the budget in under the current year’s level was a decision to freeze employee salaries. Increases have been reasonable over the years, the mayor said, and those staff he has spoken to so far “have understood the reasons for doing this.

The budget remains relatively flat, Mr. Hogue said. Village debt, the result of bonds to cover repairs to Village Hall and expenses related to the village water system, are considerably below the debt level established by the state as sound fiscal practice — amounting to approximately 1 percent of that figure. This was in response to a comment from resident Rob Ferris, who had suggested that any surplus could be used to reduce the debt. Mr. Hogue pointed out that there was still some uncertainty about expenses that might be incurred in the remaining months of this fiscal year.

The mayor and trustees “should be applauded,” resident Kirk Ressler commented from the audience of about a dozen who attended the public hearing and meeting. He wanted to make certain, however, that expenses related to correcting the flooding along Shore Road had been factored in. The mayor assured him that this had been taken into account in  preparing the budget.
In reviewing the budget line by line, Mr. Hogue noted that the winter had been unusually severe and related expenses, such as snow removal, were over budget in the current year. CHIPS money, in excess of $50,000, would be carried over to later in 2014 to cover some of those expenses. He would also look at whether ways could be found in the coming fiscal year to cut expenses of Village Hall maintenance, primarily the cost of electricity.

Mr. Hogue explained the budgeted allocation to the Shelter Island Fire Department, a contractual agreement by which village residents are billed exactly the same as town residents, based on the assessed value of their properties. The only drawback to operating on a contracted basis is that Dering Harbor residents are not entitled to vote in Fire District elections, he said.
With the 1 percent decrease in spending, the budget falls well within the state mandated cap on taxes and it was not necessary to adopt a local law permitting the board to exceed the tax cap. Mr. Hogue commented that the governor’s current executive budget proposal calls for some relief, under certain conditions, in the property tax for individual residents, providing that proposed spending did not exceed the cap. It is unclear, Mr. Hogue said, if the village can be considered for this relief, independent of the town, which has to deal with unfunded mandates and negotiations with employee unions in building its budget.

In conclusion, Mr. Hogue said that the assessed value of taxable property in the village is estimated at $119,159,436, an increase over the previous year’s figure of $118,155,791. That will bring the estimated tax rate to .0026744, reduced from .00272949 last year — or $2.67 per $1,000 of assessed vale, compared to $2.73.

OTHER BUSINESS
PSEG & trees: The new power company has completed trimming trees along village power lines and removing trees that needed to be taken down. Stumps and chopped wood will be cleaned up and removed by PSEG, Mr. Hogue said, but in the meantime, residents are encouraged to help themselves to free wood.

Bulkhead funding: FEMA has approved the village’s request for $118,000 to repair the bulkheading along Shore Road from the Julia Dodd culvert to the Hunt property.

June elections: Elections will be held for three two-year positions on Tuesday, June 17 — for mayor and two trustee seats. Mary Walker’s position is up for election, as is the interim position held by Brandon Rose, appointed to trustee Linda Adams’ seat, when she resigned earlier in the year. The mayor called for and received board approval of his recommendations for three election inspectors: Joe Cunningham, Rebecca Colby and Esther Hunt.

Resident Jim Goldman commented that when he voted last year, there was no inspector present; Mr. Hogue said the polls were covered by one or more of the designated inspectors at all times. Mr. Goldman also recommended that candidate debates be held as part of the election process. “We’ll take that under advisement,” the mayor responded.

Nominating petitions are due in Village Hall between May 6 and May 13.

10K Race: The trustees approved the annual request from the 10K Committee to include village roadways in the route of the 10K race in June — providing, as usual, that the committee provided liability insurance.

Hedges & Shore Road: The mayor welcomed two new Shore Road residents to the village — Brad Goldfarb and Alfredo Paredes — and noted that they were “doing a bang-up job” in restoring the Herman property and would be spending this summer at the residence.

There is some confusion about the property line as it affects their plans for planting hedges along Shore Road. The mayor explained that a number of years ago Shore Road was narrowed and that what remained shows on the books as village property. Mr. Hogue said that, in effect, the trustees will be asked to approve hedges on what is technically village property but was assumed by the buyers to be their property.

Village Attorney Joe Prokop said he and the Goldfarb/Paredes lawyer were in the process of collecting information from title companies, old deeds and other sources. “We want to get this resolved quickly,” Mr. Hogue said, “but we need to be cautious that proper procedures are followed.” He called for the issue to be on the May meeting agenda and recommended that the Architectural Review Board meeting scheduled that day to discuss this be postponed until then.

Mr. Ressler commented that this question of what is and isn’t village property could apply to a number of situations in the village, as he knew from his own experience. The mayor agreed and noted that a resolution of this immediate problem may help the board look at other issues in the village.

From the audience, Esther Hunt brought up again the question of hedge height in general along Shore Road, making a plea for not obstructing the water views there. Mr. Hogue said her concerns would be revisited over the summer.

The next meeting of the board will be held on Saturday, May 17 at the board’s summer hours of 9 a.m.

The board reconvened in executive session to discuss a staffing matter.