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Northport Village budget would hike taxes 6.8 percent

The Northport Village Board has unveiled a $12.4-million preliminary budget for the new fiscal year that calls for a 6.88 percent property tax increase but no layoffs.

Dozens of people attended a meeting Tuesday night at village hall for what was expected to be a public hearing on the budget. But because a public notice had not been posted as required by law, it became an informational session.

The hearing was rescheduled for next Tuesday at village hall.

The new fiscal year starts March 1.

After the budget was presented, Trustee Tom Kehoe said that though his colleagues have done an admirable job, they should be able to find more savings, as residents can't withstand such a tax increase.

He suggested a four-day workweek and combining the fire and police dispatch functions. The village has its own police department.

"These are difficult times," said Kehoe, president of a wholesale seafood business. "We have to look at some of the things we don't want to. Look at it like business people and see how we can position ourselves until things start to look up."

Residents and a large cadre of fire volunteers in attendance dismissed the idea of merging the fire and police dispatch systems as imprudent.

John Green, an accountant who has lived in the village a little over a year, suggested abolishing the village police force.

"It may not be popular," Green said, "but at some point in time something's got to give."

According to a village handout, the police department accounts for 23 percent of the budget.

Mayor George Doll said he would consider options but some may not be feasible because of collective bargaining with the police force and other workers.

"I'm not OK with a 6.8 percent increase," Doll said. "But it's the best we can do without cutting personnel or reducing services."

The tax increase for the 2009-2010 budget was 3.99 percent.

The board's finance commissioner, Trustee Henry Tobin, said residents would have faced a considerably higher tax increase if the trustees hadn't already spent time reviewing expenses in what he described as marathon sessions.

"There was no fat in the budget," Tobin said. "We had to cut into the bone and some muscle."

He said some capital items were put on hold, including purchase of police vehicles and fire department equipment.

He said the budget calls for a job opening in the highway department to remain vacant.

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