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Garden City Board Holds Village Tax Increase Below 2 Percent

Trustees Approve Library, PD and Fire Services Proposals

At its final budget meeting for the 2011-2012 fiscal year held on Tuesday, March 8, the Garden City Board of Trustees moved to approve several proposals, which have been laid out during its recent series of public work sessions. The budget set forth will yield a village tax increase of less than 2 percent – down from last year’s 2.2 percent increase.

Starting from a zero assumption, the village’s current budget stands at $53,739,000, Trustee Andrew J. Cavanaugh said. The board dissected that number by area, including the library, Police Department and Fire Services, and voted on respective proposals to make adjustments to that zero-based budget.  

Library officials dropped their original proposed budget of $3,600,000 —which would have required a village contribution of $3,300,000 — to $3,321,000, which in turn would reduce the village contribution to $3,050,000. “The library staff and the library board have worked, I would say, very conscientiously on this,” Cavanaugh said.

Library Trustee John H. Pascal broke down the budget: 82 percent comprises full-time employees – both unionized and civil service – and the remainder is ongoing operating expenses. The library reduced its budget on the operating side by $156,000, from $442,000 to $286,000, and cut its printing costs by $21,000, Pascal said. “Initially we felt we had to do this because on the people side, our budget was increasing by $223,000. The salary increase that was negotiated by the union would cost us $53,000,” he said, adding that increases in Social Security and health insurance costs were factors, as well.

Pascal reported that a total of 40 percent of part-time employee hours have been cut, and one full-time employee will be cut, leaving the library with 20 full-time employees — seven of whom work within the “infrastructure” of the library and do not service the public. In an effort to shave $57,000 from the budget, Pascal’s committee proposed closing the library on Sundays and closing at 6 p.m. two nights during the week, which was met with opposition by some of the board members.

Referring to the bulk of the library budget that is allocated for library personnel, Trustee John J. Watras questioned, “I just don’t understand what we do to stop the bleeding here. It’s incredulous. Everyone gets [inconvenienced] because now we have to close on Sundays and we can’t be open two nights a week.”

Pascal reiterated that 16 staff members have been cut over the past three years. “We feel that we’re down to bare bones,” he said. Questioned by board members whether part-time staffers can be rehired to replace some full-timers and their associated hefts, it was explained that that was not an option. The way the employment standards exist, you cannot reduce full-time staff until you reduce all part-time staff. Ironically, “You can’t get to having more part-timers until you fire all your part-timers … It’s Alice in Wonderland a little bit, but that’s the way it is,” Cavanaugh explained.

Ultimately, the board approved the $3,050,000 village contribution to the library’s budget, with the stipulation that the library remain open on Sundays.

The board voted to maintain the Fire Department’s current complement of 27 firefighters, and five lieutenants and supervision.

As for the police department, the board of trustees voted to authorize the hiring of an additional five sworn patrol officers, which will yield a total of 52 sworn patrol officers. The department currently staffs 48 patrol officers, but it is anticipated that one officer will retire during fiscal 2011-12, which begins on June 1, Cavanaugh said. Additionally, the board moved to decrease Police Department revenue from non-moving violations to $1,300,000, down from this year’s anticipated $1,500,000. “It’s a prudent adjustment to our anticipated revenues,” Cavanaugh said.