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Brightwaters Village board declines to vote on budget

Brightwaters Village Hall, shown on Aug. 4, 2012,

Brightwaters Village Hall, shown on Aug. 4, 2012, houses the village court, board of trustees meetings, vehicle and traffic department, and more. Credit: Brittany Wait

The Brightwaters Village board chose not to formally vote Saturday on a proposed $2.87 million budget that would raise taxes 7.5 percent for fiscal year 2014-2015.

About 20 residents at the budget hearing at Village Hall were baffled the board did not vote on the tentative spending plan that would add an estimated $115 property tax increase for the average household in the one-square-mile village.

"I've read the statute and it looks that we have done what we are legally required to do," said trustee John Lawlor, adding the board must pass a budget by May 1. "So if we take no further action after today, just so nobody is surprised, this is the budget with the tax increase." If the board fails to vote by May 1, the budget will be adopted by default, he said.

Lawlor, Deputy Mayor Denise Gibson and Mayor Joseph McNulty voted Thursday at a tension-filled meeting voted to raise taxes, while trustees Joe McDermott and Jack Riordan voted against it.

"So the residents can't witness a public vote on the adoption of the budget?" village resident Donna Barnett asked Lawlor Saturday. "There is a matter of satisfying the requirements and then there's doing the right thing for the residents."

During the hearing, village resident John Valdini questioned why the board was placing the tax increase in a contingency fund.

"Right now, you're showing a balanced budget," Baldini said. He added, "Why do we need a tax increase?"

McNulty said, "We're building the reserve."

The board budgeted more than $450,000 for road maintenance, but former village Mayor Charlie Hughes suggested it seek a bond to pay for $2.125 million for road resurfacing recommended by its engineers. "There is no way we can do this on a pay as you go," Hughes said.

Riordan questioned the assessment of more than $560,000 in sanitation fees, noting the fees are used for picking up garbage at residential homes, but also pay for general cleanup and repairs such as damage caused by superstorm Sandy.

"That is supposed to be spread out throughout the entire taxpayer base, not charged as a bonus fee to residents with properties," Riordan said.

Riordan also proposed issuing a request for proposals for auditor services after a resident found that larger villages such as Lindenhurst and Babylon pay about half of the $46,000 Brightwaters has budgeted. The village has retained Sheehan & Company as its auditor for more than 40 years, officials said.

"We were very comfortable with Sheehan," McNulty said. "They have been doing it for years and now it's time to address this."

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