While acknowledging a more than $400,000 budgeting error, Mastic Beach Mayor Maura Spery on Thursday night also said the village faced its first-ever tax increase, which could be as high as 125 percent.
In essence, Spery explained, the village last year budgeted and was reimbursed for $427,000 in state grants from the Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement fund, also called CHIPS, which aids in paving projects and purchasing vehicles.
However, the village did not account for the $427,000 in its expenditures, and overspent that amount, officials said. Spery took ownership of the mistake at Thursday night’s special village board meeting but also noted that all board members shared responsibility.
“I made the mistake in funding the Mastic Road paving project,” she said.
Trustee Christopher Anderson said he didn’t know about the financial troubles the village was having until the meeting started. He peppered the mayor and other village leaders with questions regarding the 2015 and 2016 budgets.
Spery also presented a proposed 2016 budget to increase taxes by 125 percent — or as high as $400 over the current tax bill for village homeowners annually. Village taxes have not increased since incorporation in 2010.
Former village Treasurer Hedy Bluth, who oversaw the adopted 2015 budget, resigned a few months ago. On Feb. 29 she was replaced by Anne Abel.
At the meeting, Spery defended Bluth.
“She did the best job she could to fix a disaster of a budget,” the mayor said, adding that an “archaic” software system contributed to the budgeting problems.
Spery proposed a $4.7 million 2016 budget in which road maintenance is projected to increase $562,000, while law department funds would increase $117,00, to $400,000.
While Spery acknowledges the village is in a financial bind, she has long advocated for increased taxes.
“We’ve done the village a disservice by staying tax-neutral,” she said, adding that abandoned and foreclosed homes, drug dealers and gang members have contributed to the village’s woes.
“No villages in New York State are not increasing taxes,” she said.
Officials have scheduled an April 13 public meeting to again discuss the budget. It must be adopted by May 1.
Public comment and input wasn’t allowed at the meeting, but it was clear the roughly 50 residents at the village meeting were opposed to the spending plan, and some caused a stir after the meeting was adjourned.
A number of residents yelled at Spery to resign.