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Babylon Village payroll grows by 21% in one year, report finds

The $612,000 increase in payroll spending was mainly due to raises and may require a tax increase in the future, the mayor said.

Babylon Village Hall.

Babylon Village Hall.

Babylon Village’s payroll grew by about $612,000 in the previous fiscal year, an increase of 21 percent, according to a report the village submitted to the Office of the New York State Comptroller.

The increase, to $3,482,680 in fiscal year 2017 from $2,870,373 in fiscal year 2016, is due primarily to raises village officials gave to employees, and may require a tax increase in the future, Mayor Ralph Scordino said.

“That’s a possibility,” he said.

Payroll costs in 15 of 25 departments went up, according to the village’s Annual Financial Report Update for the fiscal year that ran from June 2016 to May 2017. The report was prepared by Skinnon and Faber, an accounting firm based in Islandia.

The largest increases were in the refuse and garbage department, which saw a nearly $200,000, or 39 percent, payroll jump, and Maintenance of Streets, the payroll of which went up $117,000, or 32 percent.

Scordino said both departments are overseen by Public Works Superintendent Charles “Skip” Gardner, as are three others with payroll increases: parks, street administration, and snow removal.

The majority of the payroll growth stems from about $440,000 in raises the village gave to full-time employees in June 2016, Newsday previously reported. About half of those raises went to unionized full-time employees after a new collective bargaining agreement was reached. The village did not disclose an additional 23 raises given to full-time nonunion employees, Newsday reported in April.

Village treasurer Arta Wintjen said the rest of the payroll growth likely reflects new hires, pay raises for part-time employees, and snow removal costs such as overtime.

Scordino said he is not concerned about whether the payroll growth is sustainable.

“Why should I be?” he asked. “It is what it is.”

Former village treasurer Joan Crockett, who unsuccessfully ran for a seat on the village board in 2017, said the jump in payroll expenses is connected to increases in the village tax rate and fund balance in recent years.

Babylon officials raised taxes for four straight years beginning in fiscal 2012. Village officials have said the tax increases were necessary to pay for the costly cleanup that followed superstorm Sandy.

The village’s fund balance, or surplus, has more than doubled since 2014, to $3,217,000 from about $1,407,000, reports from this year and last year show.

Crockett criticized the village administration for increasing employee pay instead of giving residents a tax cut.

“They should’ve given the people back a refund,” she said.

Scordino noted, “We haven’t given a tax increase in three years.”

The report to the comptroller also showed the village drew down its unassigned fund balance last year by $844,000, and increased its assigned fund balance — surplus money marked for particular purposes — by $868,000.

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