The Village of Lindenhurst, one of the areas hardest hit by superstorm Sandy, is proposing a 2014 budget that would increase taxes by 8.2 percent.
Lindenhurst officials said the increase is related to a 1 percent drop in assessed value, which clerk-treasurer Shawn Cullinane said was partly related to damage from Sandy and due to an increase in the costs of settling tax certiorari cases. The decrease in assessed value translates to a $377,000 loss for the village, he said. Cullinane said this is the first time the assessed value has dropped this much in the village.
The proposed budget is $11.8 million, up 5.5 percent from last year's $11.2 million budget. The total tax levy would increase from nearly $6 million to $6.5 million. For residents whose homes are assessed at an average of $4,500, taxes would rise $60.75, Cullinane said.
Cullinane also attributed the tax hike to continuing increases in retirement, workers' compensation and health care costs. Retirement costs for village employees rose more than $75,000, he said, while workers' compensation increased by $50,000 and health insurance costs by $30,000.
In addition, this year the village bonded for $5.9 million for the rebuilding of the main firehouse, Cullinane said, and interest payments begin this summer. He stressed that the village remains in the black and has not made any cuts to staff or programs. Asked about the impact on residents still dealing with the aftermath of Sandy, Cullinane said residents should remember that village taxes are often the smallest part of their overall property taxes.
"I can understand, but I would keep in mind when we're looking at our portion of the big tax bill picture, we're talking $60," he said. "I'm not making light of that, but it's certainly not the hundreds or the thousands that people are experiencing from other levels or other municipalities."
Still of concern to officials is a further loss of money due to a law passed in the village last month which provides assessment relief to residents whose properties suffered 50 percent or greater damage from Sandy. Residents have until Jan. 21 to file an application seeking assessment relief for taxes paid in 2013. Mayor Thomas Brennan previously estimated that refunds could total $100,000 to residents who file for relief under this law.
"If the numbers are small enough we would just try to pay it out of cash," Cullinane said. "We may also be able to give people credit against future taxes. So there might be a couple of things we might have to do to soften the blow."
A public hearing on the proposed budget will be held at village hall at 7:30 Tuesday.