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Freeport budget proposes raising property taxes, cutting jobs

Freeport Village Mayor Andrew Hardwick Tuesday released a draft budget that would cut seven jobs and raise property taxes by 4.98 percent to plug a projected deficit of roughly $3 million, according to village officials and documents.

The proposed 2010 budget, which would start March 1, calls for $62.15 million in spending - a 1.66 percent increase over this year's adopted budget. The tax increase would cost single-family homeowners about $305 a year.

Village officials said the proposed layoffs are tentative and negotiations are under way with the union.

"In this budget, there is a provision for the reduction of several employees, but that is tentative," Village Attorney Howard Colton said.

Union leaders from Local 882 of the Civil Service Employees Association did not return calls seeking comment.

Hardwick, in a budget message to village residents, said the economic crisis, coupled with "imprudent fiscal policies of the prior administration," have necessitated a tax hike to balance the budget.

"We are living in a time of economic crisis the likes of which we have not seen since the Great Depression," Hardwick said. "In such times, governments like ours have to tighten their belts and curtail their spending."

Village Trustee William H. White Jr. questioned the proposed layoffs in light of spending on new contracts and a proposed 75 percent increase in the budget for the mayor's office, which includes salaries for at least two new positions.

"I would have to take a long, hard look at some of the positions that have been created by the mayor . . . before we lay off CSEA employees," White said.

The proposed budget for Hardwick's office is $458,050, up from $261,615 in the 2009 adopted budget. About $108,650 is earmarked for salaries for two messengers.

Colton said Hardwick has an open-door policy that requires more staff to address visitors' concerns. "He is a 24-7 mayor and he needs a staff that reflects that," Colton said.

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