Huntington Bay delays adopting budget over compensation question

Huntington Bay Mayor Herb Morrow, center, at a Huntington Bay Mayor Herb Morrow, center, at a budget meeting on Monday, April 21, 2014. Photo Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

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The Huntington Bay Village Board decided to postpone adopting its 2014-15 budget Monday night after nearly two hours of debate with residents over whether elected trustees should set aside money for themselves.

The public hearing, which began around 7:45 p.m. at the Huntington Yacht Club, ended just after 9:30 p.m. The board was expected to vote on the $1,989,444 budget, which does not raise taxes, but Mayor Herb Morrow announced after a 20-minute break that the board would vote at a meeting Monday.

"We will leave this budget hearing open to allow us time to solicit input from other people from the village," Morrow said. A new budget must be adopted by May 1 to go into effect June 1, Morrow said.

The board members were looking to include $43,000 in stipends for themselves: $1,500 a month for Morrow, and $250 a month for each of the four trustees, including Dominic Spada, who also serves as deputy mayor and police commissioner, Jay Meyer and Don Rave. Payment would also go to members of the village's Zoning Board of Appeals, who would receive $125 for attending meetings.

The board made a similar proposal during last year's budget season but withdrew it after residents voiced their concerns. Morrow said at the time he would continue to push the issue in the future.

About 50 of the village's 1,600 residents showed up to the meeting, many to decry the lack of resident input on the issue.

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Betty Wood, 58, a resident of Huntington Bay for 18 years, was one of the most vocal. "The same board that's voting for compensating themselves are the only ones who are getting a vote," Wood said. "To me, that is fundamentally wrong."

Because the compensation is part of the budget package and it is not being presented through a local law, the village trustees have sole authorization of approval, Huntington Bay's attorney, Anthony Guardino, told the residents.

Eric Koepele, a village resident for 10 years, was in favor of the budget and the board's compensation package.

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"I think it's fair for the amount of work that's done that we should designate a small stipend for people who manage and take care of a $2 million budget every year," Koepele said. "I'm not a fan of people putting their hands in my pockets but I'm a fan of when they do, that it's managed properly."

Tensions grew at times, with trustees asking voters to run in the June election if they aren't happy.

"I think this should have been changed years ago," Morrow said. "I think the residents of this affluent community need to wake up to what these jobs are about."

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