No tax increase in Freeport's new budget
Freeport's board of trustees approved a fiscal 2015 budget that holds village taxes at their current level and reduces spending by more than $3.7 million.
The trustees unanimously approved the $65.4 million budget on Monday night. The spending plan, which includes a $42.6 million tax levy, means the owner of an average home in Freeport will continue to pay $4,338 in village taxes per year.
The village avoided a tax increase this year by selling property, defunding four vacant positions, and cutting spending in some departments, including the mayor's office and village legal office, Mayor Robert Kennedy said.
Freeport also benefitted from increases in building department fees and courts revenue, in part because of more aggressive enforcement of village codes, Kennedy said.
"We've eliminated positions that were not necessary and cut back expenses in every department," he said.
Properties that were sold include a marina on the Nautical Mile and a piece of land at the corner of Merrick Road and Henry Street, Kennedy said. The properties were sold to developers, and the village is nearing agreements to sell other pieces of village land, also to developers, he said.
The positions that went unfilled include posts in the human resources, building, public works and publicity departments, Kennedy said. No village staffers were laid off, he said.
The 2015 budget comes a year after Freeport's board of trustees, which included Kennedy, approved a tax increase of more than 4.8 percent.
This year's budget cycle was Kennedy's first as mayor. He was elected in March after a contentious election in which he unseated Andrew Hardwick, his former ally.
Kennedy deserves praise for keeping taxes flat, said James Caracciolo, a Freeport resident who unsuccessfully ran against Kennedy's slate for a trustee seat in March.
Caracciolo said it is important for the mayor to keep selling village property and returning it to the tax rolls.
"We do have to move some properties in the village, and economic development has to move forward," Caracciolo said.
Freeport's budget cycle runs from March 1 to the end of February 2015.