Written by Alan Krawitz Friday, 30 April 2010 00:00
Proclaiming the need to “stop the bleeding that has affected the village,” during some of the most difficult financial times in decades, the Farmingdale Village Board on Monday adopted a no tax increase budget for 2010-2011.
Village residents called it “commendable” that the total budget of $5,340,639 was achieved with a zero percent increase in taxes. Further, Mayor George “Butch” Starkie emphasized that the village achieved the zero percent increase in taxes without any layoffs of village employees.
At a recent budget hearing at village hall, only a handful of residents turned out to hear the details surrounding the no-tax increase budget.
“I believe the turnout was low because the residents know the board has their backs covered. We are a fiscally conservative board,” Starkie said.
He also added that “The number one issue today in this country is taxes and these times are uncharted territory. The village has taken tremendous hits on all sides,” the mayor said. “Our revenues are down and expenses are up. The numbers are there for everyone to see. There’s no smoke and mirrors.”
Mayor Starkie noted that village condo owners were underassessed and that resulted in their taxes rising significantly. Trustee and village condo owner Ralph Ekstrand concurred stating that his taxes “doubled.”
He added that the breakdown in the village was 54 percent of residents had their taxes raised while 46 percent had no increase. But, Ekstrand also said that of those residents who saw their taxes rise, most were the result of property revaluations.
However, as a general fiscal assessment, the mayor declared the village in good financial standing. He even noted that the village’s investment credit rating was increased by Moody’s credit rating agency to an upper medium grade of A-1. The designation identifies the village as a safe investment, not withstanding unforeseen economic conditions.
Trustee Pat Christiansen said that things are difficult all over. “Many people out there right now are still suffering tremendously,” she said.
Among the specific items noted by the mayor included a $1,000 reduction in general government items and a loss in village revenue from railroad fees that were down $29,000. The mayor attributed the decline in railroad fees to the decreased use of the LIRR as a result of local resident job losses in New York City.
In addition, the mayor noted that workmen’s compensation rates continue to remain high for village employees.
“We’re paying out more than $70,000 in workmen’s comp for fire department employees,” he said.
He also said that the village is in the process of shopping for better workmen’s compensation rates by use of various associations from local safety groups.
One resident expressed concern regarding the financial costs of numerous water-main breaks in the village this year.
Mayor Starkie, noting there are only two full-time employees in the water department, said that water main breaks can get very costly because sometimes the village must use outside contractors to help deal with new breaks.
“New York State has special funds to help foster cooperation between municipal entities,” the mayor said. For example, he noted that the employees of South Farmingdale Water District can run its operations from their homes via laptop computers as opposed to the Farmingdale Water District that must actually go to a physical location and operate switches manually.
Asked about the village’s fiscal future, in an emailed statement, the mayor said there is much work to do.
“We have a Herculean task ahead of us as we deal with aging infrastructure and no chance of going back to the taxpayer to ask for more and more,” Starkie said. “We made it through this year…things are as tight as they can get. There will be no more magic for next year.”
“We will be reaching out to all our residents in the near future to discuss how we deliver essential services to the public and some possible ways to keep our tax rate low,” the mayor said.