Raises for officials amid tax hikes on Fire Island

Debris from superstorm Sandy sits in front of Debris from superstorm Sandy sits in front of a home in Ocean Beach, NY. (Feb. 7, 2013) Photo Credit: Newsday Ed Betz

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Ocean Beach Village officials say property owners are in for a double-digit tax hike in the 2013-14 fiscal year.

At a board meeting in Islip on Saturday, the board presented the proposed budget to residents and announced that property taxes in the Fire Island village are slated to increase 13.47 percent, or about $535 per year for the average homeowner.

"You want the stuff fixed from the storm, or you don't, that's what it comes down to," said village clerk-treasurer Steven Brautigam. Village officials have said superstorm Sandy caused as much as $6 million in damages to Ocean Beach's docks, police department, a well, the ferry terminal and village buildings.

Brautigam said the tax hike also reflects the anticipated costs of continuing to rebuild from Sandy, as well as increases in costs in general.

Brautigam said "there wasn't a lot of squawking about a 13.5 percent increase" from residents at the meeting.

But some of those residents disputed raises for the village board, cemented in this budget. At a January board meeting with a handful of residents present, the board voted, 4-1, to increase the pay of Mayor James Mallott from $1,500 to $36,500 annually, and cover the cost of his individual health insurance, valued at about $9,600 annually, or its equivalent in pay. The board also voted to give themselves individual health insurance, or the equivalent in pay, on top of their $500 annual stipend.

Mallott, who owns the Albatross bar and restaurant in Ocean Beach, said his village job changed drastically after Sandy smashed Fire Island.

"I get this money because I'm a full-time man out here," he said. "It used to be a part-time job. I put in 60 hours per week."

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