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While raising concerns about police costs, Amityville trustees approve $15.4 million village budget

Amityville Village Hall is shown on Feb. 25,

Amityville Village Hall is shown on Feb. 25, 2014. Credit: Steve Pfost

Amityville trustees have approved a $15.4 million village budget that sets aside $300,000 for road repair and keeps the village within the state-imposed tax cap.

However, budget officer Nick LaLota's announcement at Monday night's village board meeting of a 1.16 percent property tax levy increase for next year was offset by a warning of an estimated $2 million in retirement payments he said the village could face in coming years.

Ten village police officers are approaching retirement age and could do so in six to eight years, he said.

"Where we're going to get that money from, stay tuned," he said.

Mayor James Wandell put it bluntly: "That's the bomb waiting to happen."

Officers typically receive lump-sum payments for unused sick and vacation time at retirement. LaLota and Wandell have called for pay concessions from the police union over the last year. According to calculations by LaLota included in the budget, the police department will cost taxpayers $7.4 million in 2015-16.

Those demands were echoed Monday night by Chris Carman, who became one of the first village residents to publicly question police pay. "I'm pro-union, but I don't see how this village can continue to financially maintain the contract," he said.

He went on to pose a rhetorical question about the level of police service if the Amityville Police Department were to be replaced by a substation of the Suffolk County Police Department.

No trustee has so far endorsed that, and Wandell distanced himself from that move Monday night, saying "I, personally, feel very comfortable knowing we have a police force here."

Trustee Kevin Smith was the lone opposing vote in a 4-1 budget approval vote, arguing that its tax levy increase is too little to address the village's infrastructure repair needs. "It's a gamble, and I'm not comfortable with that kind of gamble," he said.

The budget funds health benefits for former part-time village officials, but only through October. LaLota and Wandell have said that cutting those benefits will save the village $100,000 a year, though some of the former officials have said they depend on the benefits and will sue to protect them.

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