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Flower Hill trustees OK $3.5M budget with spending cuts

Because the village of Flower Hill will use

Because the village of Flower Hill will use the new tax roll from Nassau County after home values were reassessed, officials said it's hard to calculate the tax impact of the $242,000 spending cut. Credit: Google Map

Anticipation of revenue loss because of the coronavirus outbreak has prompted Flower Hill officials to cut projected spending by 6%, putting planned purchases and upgrades on hold.

The village board voted 6-1 to pass the $3.9 million budget in a virtual meeting. Trustee Kate Hirsch cast the dissenting vote.

The budget for the fiscal year that begins June 1 includes a 2.5% salary increase for eligible employees and no layoffs or service cuts. It was passed on April 6.

Projected spending for fiscal year 2020-21 was cut by $242,062 compared to the current year’s $4.1 million spending plan. Adopted cuts include postponing office upgrades (a new computer server and a system to store electronic records) and reducing the parks budget, contingency fund and publicity expenses.

Because the village will use the new tax roll from Nassau County after home values were reassessed, officials said it’s hard to calculate the tax impact of the spending cut.

“On an individual homeowner basis, it will probably end up being flat or potentially a slight increase,” Deputy Mayor Brian Herrington said. “Some people might even see a slight decrease. We are not expecting a dramatic change in people’s tax bills.”

Herrington, who assumed the responsibilities of former Mayor Robert McNamara after he died April 15, said the village is taking a proactive approach to deal with the outbreak’s impact.

In the adopted budget, officials lowered their projection for license and permit fee collection by 30%, to $569,000. The budget also contained lower projections for fines and miscellaneous income.

“We tried to take a pretty aggressive stance on what that impact could be just because we didn’t know the length of it,” Herrington said. “We figured if we tried to build that into the budget, we’d give ourselves more flexibility.”

Hirsch, the trustee running against Herrington for mayor, criticized the budget for failing to prepare the village to deal with the uncertainties created by the pandemic.

“The budget disappointed me in that, at the time it was adopted, there’s such uncertainty facing the economy,” she said. “They paid lip service to the fact that all signs pointed to extremely difficult times ahead, but they failed to adopt a budget that reflected that.”

Hirsch called the projection of a 6% increase in state aid “wishful thinking” and said the board failed to look into restructuring staffing to cut costs. She suggested combining the positions of the building superintendent, who makes a salary of $130,000, and code enforcer, who is paid $90,000 a year.

“That’s $220,000,” Hirsch said. “Many small governments have a superintendent who operates as a code enforcer.”

Herrington said the state aid projection of $364,500 is consistent with previous estimates and that there’s “more than enough work” for existing staff.

“When you are talking about processing 500 death certificates a year, when you are talking about processing 700 to 800 building permits a year, you need staff to support that,” he said.

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