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Babylon Village hopes for no tax increase in next fiscal year

The Babylon Village Board on Tuesday approved a law allowing trustees to pass a budget exceeding the state-imposed tax levy cap, passing the measure 5-0 despite reservations expressed by several residents.

Mayor Ralph Scordino said it was too early to say if the 2016 budget would include a tax increase, but defended the measure as necessary to protect the village from New York State penalties for exceeding the 0.12 percent cap without that prior authorization.

“This is like insurance,” he said in an interview. “We’re working very hard to keep [the tax rate increase] at zero.”

Trustees gave themselves authority to exceed the cap each of the last three years, and last year approved a budget with no tax increases, holding the property tax rate at $14.93 per $1,000 of assessed value.

Resident Tom Sweeney said he was skeptical of the move and predicted that a tax increase is likely. A businessman who has reviewed current village finances at the invitation of the mayor, Sweeney on Tuesday predicted a “significant shortfall” for village revenues and said that several department heads had overspent their budgets.

“I’m asking them to start taking a more businesslike approach here,” he said in an interview.

In response, Scordino said: “This is different than a business.”

For example, he said, the village overran its snow clearing budget after the region was buffeted by storms last year: “What do we do, don’t plow the streets?”

Scordino is a frequent critic of the state tax cap, arguing that the village’s relatively small $10.7 million budget permits increases so small it is difficult or impossible to deliver services that residents demand. The village relies on Suffolk County police protection, but maintains its own fire department, golf course and docks.

Babylon Village’s fiscal year ends May 31. The current budget was buoyed by non-repeating FEMA payments of $1.3 million. Trustees have sought to raise additional revenues by increasing fees for services and permits and did so again Tuesday night, approving an increase for rental housing permits.

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