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Russell Gardens taxes expected to go up about $800 this year

Russell Gardens pierced the state tax cap on

Russell Gardens pierced the state tax cap on its 2020 budget. Credit: Howard Simmons

Residents of the Village of Russell Gardens will see their taxes increase this year — but at a rate that village officials said they wouldn’t know until February when the valuations of assessed properties come in.

The tax hike is expected to pierce the 2% state tax levy cap, which the village board approved last month. Deputy Mayor Lawrence Chaleff estimated the yearly tax increase to be about $800 for an average single-family household.

The village board passed the $2 million budget last Thursday that includes a 3.5% increase for staff salaries and benefits, officials said. Property tax revenue is set at $1.5 million, 25% more than the previous year when real estate taxes made up $1.2 million of the budget.

Chaleff said the village is uncertain on how $300,000 more in taxes would be apportioned among commercial properties, apartments, condos and single-family homes. He said the calculations wouldn’t be completed until Russell Gardens finishes its assessment, which the village conducts every year.

“We are waiting for our assessors to give us the analysis of the property value [in] the village,” Chaleff said. “Then we can decide what the rate would be for each group. … I just can’t tell you how that breaks down yet.”

Officials said the village had to raise property taxes — which funds three-quarters of the village’s budget — to address rising operational expenses.

“The cost of health care, the cost of payroll and the cost of maintaining equipment have all gone up,” Chaleff said. “We had to make sure we are raising the tax revenue to at least break even.”

The biggest increase the village saw in its expense was garbage pickup, which jumped from $105,000 in 2018 to more than $150,000 in 2019.

The fee will further go up to $201,000 in 2020 and $207,000 in 2021, according to a three-year contract the village signed in January 2019 with Westbury-based Meadow Carting, who was the lowest bidder of three.

The village of 950 residents has also seen higher costs for legal services and maintenance on aging equipment, officials said.

Mayor David Miller said the village withdrew $250,000 from its reserves last year to balance the budget but that practice is not sustainable in the long run.

“The purpose of the budget is to catch up to our operating expenses,” the mayor said. “And we are not going to take any money out of the reserves.”

Officials said taxes in the past six years have only gone up to purchase a $1 million park and tennis court from the Russell Gardens Homeowners Association.

“We raised the taxes for three years to fund that expense,” Miller said. “After that was paid for, we reduced the taxes to the original level. We had not raised taxes for almost six years.”