Babylon Village will likely begin its new fiscal year with a $2 million surplus, village officials said, drawing criticism from one resident who said the money needs to be better tracked.
Mayor Ralph Scordino and Treasurer Valerie Fronzo said the village started accumulating the money after superstorm Sandy, when cleanup efforts prompted a 9.71 percent property tax increase in 2013, and after federal cleanup and repair reimbursements this year.
Some of the surplus for the fiscal year is to go toward equipment purchases. Remaining funds at the start of the new budget year on June 1 will go into a contingency fund, Fronzo said at a hearing Monday night.
Scordino cautioned that the money could be “chewed up very easily” by increased labor costs or the need to replace the village’s hook and ladder fire truck, which works but is 10 years old. Any funds left over at the end of the 2016-17 fiscal year could be preserved for contingencies or used for tax relief, he said.
But resident Tom Sweeney, a businessman who has clashed with Scordino after being invited to review village finances as part of a volunteer budget committee, said Babylon officials should do a better job of accounting for the cash the village holds.
“I’m concerned the reserve is greater than what they’re indicating and there’s no way of tracking it,” he said in an interview.
The $10.3 million 2016-17 tentative budget posted on the village website does not include a line item for the expected surplus. Fronzo said that practice is common for municipal budgets and that it would be addressed in notes attached to the final budget, which trustees are expected to approve later this month.
Scordino, in an interview Wednesday, said village finances are transparent and growing more so.
“Any resident can come in and ask a question or go in to Valerie and get the question answered,” he said. “Or they can go to a public meeting and ask us there.”
The New York State Comptroller’s office allows local governments to keep a “reasonable” fund balance, without specifying the amount. The Government Finance Officers Association, representing public finance officials across the United States and Canada, recommends that municipalities keep an unreserved fund balance equal to at least two months of annual total expenditures as insurance against unanticipated expenditures or revenue shortfalls. For Babylon Village, that would be $1.7 million.
Trustees could vote Tuesday on the budget, which calls for the property tax rate to remain at $14.93 per $100 of assessed valuation.