Tax freeze proposal and waterfront development plan spark boos, cheers at Glen Cove city budget hearing
The two candidates for Glen Cove mayor traded barbs about finances and the contentious $850-million-plus waterfront redevelopment plan, drawing cheers and boos from the audience during a sometimes rowdy public hearing on the proposed 2016 city budget.
Mayor Reginald Spinello threatened at one point to halt the meeting Tuesday night after audience members at times shouted down one another and talked over both him and Councilman Anthony Gallo, his opponent in the Nov. 3 election.
The City Council is scheduled to vote on the budget at its Oct. 27 meeting at City Hall.
Spinello presented the budget's proposed tax freeze for homeowners as a sign of a city government being cautious about spending and the waterfront project as a long-term tax and fee generator that will help stabilize budgets for years. "That would make a dramatic difference in our finances," he said.
A report released last month by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli named Glen Cove as among the most fiscally stressed municipalities in the state.
Gallo zeroed in on a proposed 7 percent increase in expenses between 2015 and 2016 and the 0.95 percent increase in the commercial tax, and he expressed worry that the massive waterfront redevelopment plan, for which the planning board approved a special-use permit last week, would drain finances.
One reason for concern is the city's potential reliance on tax-increment financing bonds -- which borrow against future revenue -- to help finance the project, he said. Another is how the lack of a tax increase is predicated on $3.5 million in anticipated revenue from the sale of waterfront property to developer RXR.
"It's a onetime revenue shot," Gallo said. He called for slowing spending -- the budget rose from $48.2 million in 2015 to a proposed $51.6 million in 2016 -- and the elimination of the commercial tax hike.
Resident Marsha Silverman said the city needs to develop three-to-five-year financial outlooks to help rein in expenses and prevent overreliance on borrowing.
City Controller Sal Lombardi said most of the additional spending was because of contractual obligations for increases in employees' salaries and benefits, and debt payments.
He said that, while commercial taxes would rise 0.95 percent, that would come after the 0.84 percent decrease in the tax between 2014 and 2015, leading to only a tiny tax hike over two years.