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Freeport workers plan rally to protest job cuts

The union representing Freeport Village workers plans to rally at Village Hall this evening to protest proposed layoffs under a draft budget for next year, union officials said.

The rally by the Civil Service Employees Association, scheduled for 6 p.m., coincides with a public hearing on the proposed budget to be held at 7:30 p.m. in Village Hall at 46 N. Ocean Ave.

In a news release by CSEA's Long Island office, officials said the draft budget "seeks to eliminate the jobs of six union members and raise property taxes . . . in a dubious attempt to close a projected deficit" of some $3 million.

But Village Attorney Howard Colton said the number of jobs on the chopping block was down to four from 14. "These are troubled economic times," he said in a statement. "Everyone has been asked to reduce their budgets."

Union leaders did not return calls seeking comment Sunday.

Village Trustee William H. White Jr. said the layoffs target "longtime Freeport residents with roots in the community" and he opposed the union job cuts "in light of the numerous personal service contracts and additional positions created by the administration."

Mayor Andrew Hardwick moved to eliminate a position in his office and to cut the chief of staff's salary by $45,000, Colton said.

Hardwick's tentative 2010-2011 budget calls for a 5.5 percent property tax hike and $62.3 million in spending, a 3.1 percent increase over this year's adopted budget.

The average house assessed at $5,745 would owe $3,151 in village property taxes, an increase of roughly $320 over the current fiscal year. If approved, the budget would go into effect March 1.

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