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Hempstead Village leaders vote to exceed tax cap

The Hempstead Village board has voted to exceed the state's tax cap, calling for a 3.56 percent tax increase and a proposed $75.81 million budget.

The spending plan calls for a tax levy of 4.06 percent, above the village's state tax cap limit of 1.48 percent. Homeowners would pay $77.48 per $100 of assessed valuation.

Mayor Wayne J. Hall Sr. cited higher pension costs and health insurance premiums for the potential tax increase. The tax increase could have reached up to 15 percent, but village administrators proposed a 10 percent cut from department budgets and a 20 percent cut in part-time staff.

"We did a good job to bring it down the lowest that we could bring it and still be able to operate the village," Hall said during a hearing Tuesday night.

The largest item in the budget is $26.38 million for public safety. The village anticipates collecting $59.37 million from taxes and $14.04 million from revenue sources other than real estate taxes, along with $2.4 million from reserves.

"We're really hurting with the taxes," taxpayer Mark Abrahams, 49, of Hempstead, said during the hearing. "They have really grown tremendously over the year. We really need a break."

Trustee Don Ryan said village officials plan to talk with local legislators to see whether the village can get more state funding or be exempt from the tax cap law, considering it has more than 50,000 residents, more than 100 police officers and at least 30 percent of property off tax rolls. "We have a unique situation here, and without an exception from Albany, I don't think we would be able to meet the tax cap," Ryan said.

The board scheduled a public hearing for April 14 at 6 p.m. on the village's tentative budget for 2014-2015. It also approved the $1.078 million budget of its Community Development Agency.

The board, whose trustees serve as board members of the CDA, held a hearing on the agency's allocation for Sept. 1 to Aug. 31 of Community Development Block Grant money from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The agency budget includes: $215,000 for administration; $70,000 to fund 15 community groups; $60,000 for neighborhood beautification, rehabilitation of commercial buildings and residential homes; and $40,000 for property acquisition and disposition projects in connection with revitalization efforts.

The budget also includes $588,000 to cover continuing payments on a $10 million mortgage the agency backed in 2001 on behalf of the now-defunct 100 Black Men of Long Island Development Group, which was unable to pay the loan. The budget didn't include funding to repay the village more than $260,000 in loans made last year to help cover the agency's payroll.

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