More than six years ago, residents in the hamlet of Mastic Beach voted to separate from Brookhaven Town and form their own village.
Citing issues such as the prevalence of abandoned homes and the need to keep taxes low, residents incorporated the Village of Mastic Beach on Aug. 30, 2010, by a vote of 1,797 to 1,385.
On Wednesday, residents will return to the polls to decide whether to remain a village or disband and rejoin Brookhaven.
In June, Moody’s Investors Service downgraded the village’s municipal bonds six levels to noninvestment grade, citing financial instability, overspending by $400,000 on a road project, a declining tax base and operating at a deficit for three-straight years.
Supporters of the village say they want to remain a municipality because, as a community of about 15,000 residents, it is the best way for them to solve their problems.
“All municipalities, especially a new one like ours, will have issues that come up,” said longtime resident Alan Chasinov, 61. He said disbanding was not in residents’ best interests. “We need to control our own destiny.”
Those who want to return to Brookhaven say the financial challenges and the village’s current austerity budget limit its ability to improve.
Fred Krage, 63, said he wants to dissolve the village because of its financial condition.
“They are failing to raise enough revenue to do the job properly,” he said.
Last week, before a gathering of village residents at William Floyd High School, an Albany-based consulting group hired by the municipality said village taxes could rise by up to 208 percent if Mastic Beach residents choose to remain incorporated and provide a basic level of services. The group, which also said the village could spend $2 million on road improvements next year, based its conclusion after a review of village finances, audits and interviews with officials.
A representative of the firm, The Laberge Group, said in an interview at the meeting that taxes could rise by as much as 400 percent if officials spent the $2 million and repaved 8 of the village’s 84 miles of roads.
Supporters of the village remaining separate from Brookhaven said the 400 percent figure was not in the Laberge report. They said the austerity budget was based on current conditions in the village. The village deficit, projected in June at $400,000, is at $11,000 now.
“This year has been like a lot of other years municipalities have had,” Chasinov said. “But we need to learn from our mistakes and move forward.”
The village is the newest in New York State. It sits along a wide expanse of the Great South Bay and to its supporters the village aspires to be the gateway to the Hamptons farther east.
From the beginning, the village faced challenges. The first mayor, Paul Breschard, resigned midway through his first term, blaming tension on the village board. The village has had three mayors, six treasurers, five attorneys and three clerks since it was incorporated.
The current mayor, Maura Spery, has not publicly stated her position on the vote. She was criticized by the board in April when she informed residents that the village had overspent on a road paving project by $427,000.
In April, the board voted on a tax-neutral $3.89 million budget, against the advice of Spery who argued for a 125 percent spending increase that she said would support services. Staff layoffs were announced in May.
Union Local 342, which represents the village workforce, filed an improper labor practice charge with the New York State Public Employment Relations Board over the layoffs.
Hoping to turn around village finances, trustees Joseph Johnson and Anne Snyder supported efforts to raise $100,000 in revenue by imposing franchise fees on local businesses, but none were ever collected. They also sought to raise money through aggressive code enforcement on homeowners.
Bob Miller, 49, who led the petition drive to put the issue on the ballot, said: “Let’s go back to Brookhaven. There’s a lot of traction. There’s a big movement coming out to make it go away.”
If residents vote to unincorporate, Mastic Beach would become the first Long Island village since Pine Valley - a tiny village opposite downtown Riverhead - in 1991 to unincorporate.
John Mutt, a 45-year village resident, was against the village forming but has changed his mind.
“I plan to vote for the village to stay,” said Mutt, 66. “We have more control. We have better services now.”
The vote is Wednesday from noon to 9 p.m. at the Mastic Beach Firehouse, 265 Neighborhood Rd.