Written by Katherine M. Trager Friday, 13 January 2012 00:00
The Village of Westbury Board of Trustees held its first regular meeting for the year on Jan. 5 and centered on two public hearings to discuss and evaluate new local laws, which were briefly introduced at last month’s meeting.
One public hearing resulted in the passage of a local law authorizing the village, if necessary, to impose a property tax levy in excess of the state-legislated two percent cap.
The law, which would have to be re-enacted each year after a public hearing, would apply to the village’s upcoming budget for the fiscal year beginning on June 1.
“The two percent tax cap law was enacted this past state legislative session to try to rein in the repeated annual increases in property taxes, and for the most part, most municipal budgets are going to have to be constrained by a two percent levy limit,” said Westbury Mayor Peter Cavallaro.
“The tax cap is not based on a two percent increase in the tax rate, it’s based on a two percent increase in the levy, which means that the total amount of money that we raise each year in taxes can’t be more than two percent higher than we raised in the previous year,” he explained.
“The law does have what I would call a ‘savings provision’ in it, which allows a municipality to enact an override to the two percent cap if, in a given year, there are extraordinary circumstances that warrant that to be done,” continued Cavallaro.
Village Attorney Dwight Kraemer stated that, “In analyzing whether to enact this local law, the Board of Trustees has evaluated the possible loss of services, reduction of staff, effect of existing labor contracts, expense of general operations and benefits for employees, and decrease in revenue for mortgage tax and other revenue streams.
“The board has determined that it is in the best interest of the Village of Westbury to enact this local law at this time to provide the flexibility so as to be able to consider the possibility of exceeding the limit,” said Kraemer.
Cavallaro also cited recommendations from both the Nassau County Village Officials Association (NCVOA) and the New York Conference of Mayors (NYCOM) as sources of guidance in the village’s decision to adopt the new law.
“The essence of why we’re adopting this local law is as a ‘precautionary measure,’” said the mayor, quoting a November memo from NYCOM that warned of the “potential for a local government to exceed the cap unintentionally,” especially when taking into consideration that the tax cap law is new and that there are still some uncertainties as to how to apply it.
The mayor explained that if a calculation error is made in the budget, the village would have to set aside the amount of the overage, plus an interest factor, in a reserve fund in the year the error is discovered.
“That money wouldn’t be able to be used for that year’s budgetary expenses, so we would have a consequence in future budget years if a mistake were to occur,” said Cavallaro.
A resident wanted to know how many municipalities were also choosing to authorize a law to opt out of the tax cap if necessary.
“Of the villages and municipalities in the state that have expressed an opinion, 158 are opting out, 98 have decided not to opt out and there are many that have not decided yet,” said Cavallaro.
“A municipality could have enacted this local law at any time in the past several months, or up until the time that it enacts its budget,” he continued.
The mayor strongly emphasized that the village’s upcoming budget would not necessarily exceed the tax cap because of the passage of the new local law.
“The adoption of the local law does not mean that the village is going to adopt a budget that exceeds the tax cap.
“Both NCVOA and NYCOM recommend that municipalities enact this local law whether or not there’s a current intent or thought that a budget might be passed that exceeds the two percent cap,” said Cavallaro.
“The upcoming budget is going to be the tightest budget we can put together, and we’ll work within the constraints that we have to work with,” said Cavallaro, reminding the community that the village’s last three budgets had overall year-to-year reductions in spending and that last year’s budget had a zero percent tax increase.
Another resident confirmed that the budgets were available for the public to view on the village’s website.
“Budgets are posted on the website, so residents can see how the money is being spent,” said the mayor, adding that residents can contact the board if they have any additional questions or concerns about the new law.
The outcome of the other public hearing was the adoption of a local law prohibiting parking at all times in the area adjacent to the sump on Parkway Drive across from Rose Avenue, in the neighborhood located in the northwest portion of the village.
According to Cavallaro, the new law stemmed from residents’ requests for more restrictive parking regulations due to recent concerns regarding burglaries and suspicious vehicle activity, which seemed to be centered in that particular area.
A resident of that neighborhood who attended the meeting expressed additional support for the new regulation as “hopefully a deterrent” to teens who were beginning to use the area near the sump as a place to congregate and engage in questionable activity.
“The board felt that this new rule was a reasonable request,” stated Cavallaro.
“It’s a tool for us to be able to make sure that we’re not having people park all day in those areas to case houses and to see the activity that’s going on.
“There’s no reason that there needs to be parking along that stretch of road, particularly since it was starting to be used as a hangout where people were congregating to do things that they weren’t supposed to be doing,” the mayor continued, adding that newly installed signage will alert drivers and passersby to the no-parking rule.
In his mayor’s report, Cavallaro informed the community that the village’s next e-cycle drop-off day is on Jan. 14 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Department of Public Works, which is located at 500 Dover Street.
“We’re trying to encourage more recycling in the village, and e-cycle is something we implemented about two years ago, where we have quarterly collection days for electronics,” said Cavallaro.
“To date, we’ve probably collected close to 20 tons of electronics, and taken that out of our normal waste stream.
“We don’t have to pay to have it disposed of, and it’s just the ‘greener’ and more environmentally friendly thing to do,” he concluded.
Cavallaro also spoke about his recent interview on Hofstra University’s radio station.
“They asked me to do an interview program on the Village of Westbury, and I was glad to talk about all the good things we have going on here, and all the reasons that people want to live here and be in this community.
“We’ll publicize when that interview is going to be aired, which should be in the next couple of weeks,” he said.
Senior Building Inspector William Mello gave an update on the Westbury theater project.
“As most of you are probably aware if you’ve driven by, there was what appeared to be a work stoppage over the last couple of weeks,” said Mello.
“This was due to some serious design decisions that needed to be done on the front portion of the building.
“This past week, we’ve seen an upswing in the work that’s being done there,” continued Mello.
“There are workers putting the roof down, and we have plumbers connecting the sewers. Electricians are going to be setting transformers on Jan. 12, which will lead to a morning street closure on Newton Street for about two hours.
“If you live on Newton Street, you’ll have to enter off of Linden Avenue and go the long way down the block,” stated Mello, adding that the village will be giving out notices to Newton Street residents.
Mello also received recognition for his role in averting a medical emergency at the Westbury Senior Center’s annual holiday party, which took place last month at Westbury Manor.
“It was very scary,” said Deputy Mayor Joan Boes, who serves as village liaison to the Senior Center.
“A woman was choking, and Bill Mello successfully performed a Heimlich maneuver to dislodge what she was choking on.
“We’re all very grateful that Bill was there to come to her rescue,” said Boes, which inspired a generous round of applause from both the board and the audience.