Glen Cove Mayor Reginald Spinello Thursday night defended his proposed 2017 budget as putting the city on the path toward financial stability, while several residents challenged it as fiscally risky.
Resident Dave Nieri told the mayor at a public hearing on the budget at City Hall that the budget relies too much on uncertain revenue from the proposed Garvies Point waterfront development.
“It’s extraordinarily optimistic,” Nieri said of the budget. “Mayor after mayor have gotten themselves into trouble by overestimating revenues.”
Nieri was referring to the budget’s projection of more than $3.8 million in revenue from the expected close next month of the sale of Garvies Point land to developer RXR Glen Isle Partners, which is planning to build 1,110 housing units, parks, stores, offices, marinas and other amenities. The budget also projects more than $1.9 million in building fees.
Resident Marsha Silverman, a longtime critic of the mayor, was skeptical the money would come in and pointed out the 2016 budget also relied on millions of dollars in projected — but so far unrealized — Garvies Point land-sale and building-permit revenue. What would occur, she asked, if the sale doesn’t go through this year and the revenue doesn’t materialize?
“It will happen,” the mayor said of the land deal. “I’m very optimistic and I have a closing scheduled for November.”
Spinello said that if one-time revenue such as the Garvies Point proceeds don’t help pay operating expenses, the city would have to raise taxes by a double-digit percentage. The 2017 budget calls for the city tax levy to rise 1.5 percent, with residential taxes going up $48 a year for the owner of a home valued at the city average of $460,000, Spinello said.
The mayor said he understood state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s criticism of the city’s practice of using one-time revenue for operating expenses.
“You really don’t want to use rainy day money to buy milk and eggs,” Spinello said.
But he said the city needs that revenue to avoid raising taxes too much and to pay down debt that accumulated over many years. Under the budget, the city’s debt would drop from about $57 million at the end of 2016 to $54 million at the end of 2017 — compared with $62 million when Spinello took office.
“It’s a big ship turning slowly, but we’re getting there,” Spinello said.
As the budget increases residential taxes, it decreases commercial taxes by, for example, $464 for property valued at $1 million.
Glen Cove taxes commercial buildings at a higher rate than it taxes residential property, but a condition of being allowed to do so is that it must follow a state formula for distributing the tax burden. In 2017, the formula requires that, if there’s an increase in the tax levy, the city must drop commercial taxes by a certain proportion and raise residential taxes, according to a New York State Department of Taxation and Finance spokesman.
The budget hearing was continued until the next City Council meeting, which begins at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 25 at City Hall. The council is expected to vote on the budget at that meeting.