Hempstead Village Hall is located at 99 Nichols Ct. in...

Hempstead Village Hall is located at 99 Nichols Ct. in Hempstead. Credit: Google Maps

Hempstead Village faces about $3 million in cuts and layoffs after board members voted against piercing the tax cap, which could have raised property taxes by as much as 9 percent.

Village officials had proposed giving themselves permission to exceed the 1.68 percent tax cap in order to pass the tax hike next week, to pay for additional police officers, overtime and police pensions.

When the village board voted Tuesday night, trustees Perry Pettus and Waylyn Hobbs Jr. opposed piercing the cap. Mayor Wayne J. Hall Sr. and Deputy Mayor Luis Figueroa voted in favor. With trustee Don Ryan excused while on vacation, the measure failed.

Hall said the defeat would force the village to cut about $3 million from next year's proposed budget. He warned that the village would have to cut across departments -- including layoffs and reducing services such as road repairs -- to balance the budget.

The village has about $3.2 million in reserves. Village trustees planned to use $500,000 from the tax relief fund allocated from Assemb. Earlene Hooper (D-Hempstead).

The number of layoffs and the departments to be slashed have not been determined, but among the first cuts will be six new police positions, Hall said.

"I didn't get the votes," Hall said Wednesday. "I felt the budget was geared toward public safety, and they didn't take that into consideration. Cutting police is not something I want to do, but . . . I have no choice."

Residents will likely see a slight tax increase under the tax cap when the village board votes on the proposed $81 million budget Monday. Hall said he is not likely to propose exceeding the tax cap again this budget cycle.

The village was about $3 million over budget this year with an expected $2.8 million in police overtime, $800,000 in raises for police and CSEA employees, and a $1.9 million reduction in the village general fund.

Police overtime has increased annually to about $2.7 million due to increased patrols around the village, but Hall said he would speak to officials about slashing overtime.

Village Treasurer Ray Calame reported to the state comptroller's office Wednesday that village officials intended to cut roughly $3 million from the budget but attempt to maintain village reserves. He said taking reserve funds would hurt the village bond rating and only provide a short-term fix.

Trustee Hobbs said he sided with residents opposed to the tax hike. He said the village should tap reserves and increase revenue through building code fines and police tickets.

"We don't want to see anyone lose their jobs, but we don't want to see people losing their homes when they can't afford the high taxes to live here," Hobbs said.

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