Floral Park budget not tight enough for state cap

The Village of Floral Park’s 2016-2017 budget contains the lowest property tax levy increase since the late 1990s, village officials said — but it’s not low enough to stay under this year’s state tax cap.

The proposed $23.5 million levy shows a hike of 0.61 percent over last year, piercing the 0.12-percent increase Floral Park is allowed under state law.

“The tax cap law is a good law, but it’s half a good law,” Mayor Thomas Tweedy said on Wednesday. “The state has to do their part.”

The levy would have increased only 0.11 percent if the village had not allocated more money to build up a fund for road repairs, as it has since 2014, Tweedy said.

But the village thinks the practice is more prudent in the long run and that taxpayers would likely rather have their roads in good shape than get a small refund for staying below the tax cap, Village Administrator Gerard Bambrick said.

“I think they understand the trade-off,” he said.

While road repairs are necessary and help property values, former Trustee Mary-Grace Tomecki said, the bulk of the tax hike cannot be attributed to any single item.

Tomecki said she thinks the village has taken on too many large projects at once — such as the $6.75 million pool it finished last year and allocating $150,000 for legal fees to fight the Long Island Rail Road’s proposed third track project.

“We’re a small municipality with a fairly stagnant tax base — because this is Floral Park, this is not the City of New York — so taking on so many massive projects at the same time is a burden,” Tomecki said.

The proposed $27.5 million budget would increase the village tax rate from $12.61 per $100 of assessed value to $12.68.

Fortunate savings such as lower pension costs and retirements in the police department helped keep the budget tighter than normal, Bambrick said.

It contains about $960,000 for road repairs, about $130,000, or 0.5 percent, more than last year, Bambrick said.

There are about a dozen roads in Floral Park that need immediate repairs, Tweedy said. The village committed to increasing road funds in 2014 with a 0.25-percent hike, he said, followed by a 0.5-percent increase last year.

Floral Park took up about $2.3 million worth of road fixes on four streets this year after building up the fund the past two years, Bambrick said.

The allocations go toward short-term borrowing, which is combined with state money and county Community Development Block Grants to fund road projects, Bambrick said.

“It makes sense in the long term because you build up a road fund incrementally without having a massive tax increase to get to that million-dollar number,” he said. “You gradually build towards it in a way that’s the least impact to taxpayers as possible.”

Keeping up the incremental increases for repairs is “responsible” and will help keep streets in good condition, in conjunction with recent drainage fixes, he said.

“The village looks significantly different in the last 10 years, both from the roads, the curbs, the drainage — it looks and conveys water so much better than it has,” Tweedy said.

Tomecki said she wonders how the village is planning for the future and whether the projects it has taken up are “sustainable.”

The Village Board reserved decision Wednesday on the budget and an ordinance to let itself pierce the 0.12-percent tax levy cap.

Many local municipalities are grappling with tight caps on tax levy hikes this year, driven by a small increase in the consumer price index, a cost-of-living indicator.

Tweedy said he appreciates that the law keeps property taxes low, but the fact that the cap varies widely from year to year makes budget planning difficult.

About the author

Noah Manskar

Noah Manskar is the assistant managing editor for Blank Slate Media and a reporter covering the Willistons, New Hyde Park and Nassau County government.
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