Amityville Village Hall is shown in this 2011 file photo.

Amityville Village Hall is shown in this 2011 file photo. Credit: Alexi Knock

Credit ratings agency Moody's Investors Service has removed its negative outlook for Amityville, citing stabilization of the village's finances in fiscal year 2014 and an anticipated operating surplus this year.

While the village ended the past five fiscal years with negative reserves, "finances have improved the past two years and are expected to continue improving," Moody's wrote last week. "Management was able to achieve these surpluses through conservative budgeting, departmental restructuring and increased building permit revenues."

Moody's also affirmed its Baa 1, or moderate-risk rating, for the village's $8.2 million of general obligation debt, in a rating update released Thursday.

Mayor James Wandell hailed the report in an email to residents as "welcomed recognition that our hard work is paying off."

Trustee Nick LaLota, the village budget officer, said improved finances were partly the result of consolidation of Village Hall jobs, debt refinancing and insurance rebidding.

But the village continues to struggle with liquidity, using tax anticipation notes to ease cash flow.

Near-term finances will be strained by separation payments totaling about $1.3 million to four retired police officers, including Police Chief Don Dobby and Lt. Gerard Gralton, with Dobby taking about $407,300 and Gralton $431,520.

Police salaries, which LaLota, Wandell and Deputy Mayor Jessica Bernius have described as an existential threat to the village, are a looming issue, Moody's said. "The village will continue to struggle with the rising costs associated with its largest collective bargaining unit, the police union, which comprises 51 percent of the annual budget."

With contractually mandated annual pay raises until the 2018 expiration of the PBA contract, trustees will "need to either vote to override the property tax cap or reduce expenditures to keep the budget in structural balance," Moody's said.

LaLota said he categorically opposes tax increases but conceded it is becoming increasingly difficult to find savings in the village's $15.4 million budget. "There is less low-hanging fruit," he said.

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