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Glen Cove approves $72.4 million budget with business tax cut, homeowner tax increase

Mayor Reginald Spinello's first taxing and spending plan

Mayor Reginald Spinello's first taxing and spending plan represents a 3.6 percent increase over the current year's $69.9 million budget. Credit: Barry Sloan

The Glen Cove City Council unanimously approved its $72.4 million budget, which lowers property taxes on businesses while increasing them for homeowners.

Mayor Reginald Spinello's first taxing and spending plan represents a 3.6 percent increase over the current year's $69.9 million budget.

Spinello, an Independence Party member, framed the 2015 budget approved at the Tuesday council meeting as a departure from the previous three Democratic administrations, even as he continued some practices that have drawn criticism from state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli's office.

"It's a first step," Spinello said. "I think we're headed in the right direction."

The reduced commercial property tax rate will lower taxes by about $80 per $500,000 of assessed value. Residential taxes will increase by about $38 per $500,000 of assessed value.

Spinello acknowledged that the budget contained one-time payments known as "one shots" and borrowing for operating expenses -- both practices that DiNapoli's office last week said in a review of the budget were not prudent.

"In this budget we have one-shot revenue, which is not the greatest thing," Spinello said. "After it's done next year you still have a hole."

The "one shots" include more than $1 million from a legal settlement reached with engineering and construction firms that built a flawed bulkhead as part of the city's ferry terminal project and a property sale.

DiNapoli's office said in a letter last week that the proposed budget "contains significant financial risks" and that the city's continued use of debt -- at least $1.1 million in 2015 -- for termination payments for employees and tax certiorari payments would "exacerbate the city's ability to become fiscally solvent."

Spinello said the city is phasing out such borrowing and that relying completely on operating funds next year would have required a steep property tax increase.

The budget drew praise from the three Democrats and three Republicans on the council.

"It's a good budget and the tax increase is minimal," said Democratic City Councilman Timothy Tenke.

Several Glen Cove residents questioned the mayor and council on specifics of the budget during a hearing that preceded the vote.

Drew Lawrence, 60, a Sea Cliff government employee, questioned raises for several city officials. The annual salary for Deputy Mayor Barbara Peebles will go to $78,000 from $69,500 and the salary for Public Works Director James Byrne will increase to $132,000 from $120,000. Spinello said those numbers were misleading because the lower figure was the budgeted number from the prior administration, but he had hired them at higher salaries this year and thus the year-over-year increase was smaller.

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