Amityville's village board on Monday night unveiled a $15.3 million preliminary budget that trustee Nick LaLota said should safeguard the village's fiscal health while abiding by the state-imposed tax levy cap.
Some changes to the budget are almost certain before an April 28 vote. The 6.17 percent tax increase now called for will have to come down if the village is to remain under the cap. LaLota also said the final budget will also reduce the village's operating deficit, which was $537,000 last year, to the mid-$300,000s.
"We are intent on complying with the tax cap," LaLota said. "But a lot more needs to be done to get there." In an interview, he warned that the village still faces "long-term structural obligations including health care and pensions as well as salaries."
Budgeting is further constrained by a dip in the village's total taxable property value, he said. Superstorm Sandy repairs are still underway, and the Brunswick Hospital property, a source of revenue before its 2012 demolition, has yet to be redeveloped.
Even so, the preliminary budget calls for a $250,000 commitment to the fire department's length of service program, akin to a pension, for volunteer firefighters -- more, LaLota said, than has been spent on that program in the last four years combined.
It also calls for a roughly $10,000 increase in spending for road maintenance, to $365,372, and a $150,000 "contingency" line, an amount larger than previous years.
The biggest costs would once more come in the areas of public safety and employee benefits. Spending on public safety, which includes the police and fire departments, would increase from $5.4 million to $5.6 million as the village hires two new police officers and spending on some other items increases.
Under the draft presented Monday night, benefits spending would rise from $4.1 million to $4.6 million, driven by the fire department service award increase and an overall increase in pension obligations from $1.3 million to $1.6 million.
LaLota said the board would consider "smoothing," or amortizing that cost, to reduce next year's payments and free up room elsewhere in the budget.
That idea drew criticism from some in the audience Monday night. LaLota said the board might have to choose between smoothing and a 6 percent tax raise.
"Sometimes, government budgeting is a choice between two bad decisions," he said.