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Mar 27, 2013 11:22 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Hiring Freeze Will Keep Westhampton Beach Village Under Tax Cap

Mar 27, 2013 12:28 PM

An unofficial hiring freeze will help Westhampton Beach Village come in under the 2-percent tax levy cap with its proposed $9.67 million 2013-14 budget despite significant increases in both the cost of employee benefits and contributions to retirement plans next year.

On Friday, Mayor Conrad Teller said the village will not be approving any new hires for the time being. He explained that it would not be prudent to do so until the village is certain it would be able to maintain those positions down the road.

“We more or less have a hiring freeze,” Mr. Teller said. “In their infinite wisdom, New York State keeps handing down unfunded mandates. To hire anybody right now is to gamble whether you can carry them into the next go-around.”

The municipality’s proposed spending plan represents a 1.98-percent increase over the current year’s $9.48 million budget, and maintains all current staffing positions. The public hearing on the plan, which was first presented to trustees at the work session on March 20, will be held during their next meeting on Thursday, April 4, starting at 7 p.m. The board must adopt a spending plan by May 1.

As part of the spending plan, the district is increasing the tax levy by 1.89 percent, from almost $7.9 million this year to nearly $8.1 million next year. If adopted as is, village residents can expect the tax rate to increase by 4.6 percent, from $2.82 per 1,000 of assessed valuation to $2.95, though that figure could fluctuate.

The biggest increase comes from contributions to the state retirement system, which is increasing by $325,000, or 39 percent, to $1.15 million. According to Village Clerk Rebecca Molinaro, the state has estimated for the past two years how much money the municipality would need to set aside in that budget line. Both times, the actual cost has been significantly higher; last year, the budget line went from $720,000 to $825,000, a nearly 15 percent increase.

For the 2013-14 year, the village has opted to increase the contributions to avoid owing more money in December. Last February, the village received an estimated bill of $794,000 and set aside $825,000, only to learn that the real cost would be $860,000. To avoid repeating that mistake, the village is setting aside $1.1 million next year even though the state estimate is $943,000.

“It is huge,” Ms. Molinaro said. “In trying to be a little more cautious and proactive, we budgeted over the estimate.”

She noted that such large increases are common across the state due to an uptick in retirements.

The village must also absorb an anticipated double-digit increase in employee benefits, which are expected to jump 14 percent next year, from $2.48 million to $2.83 million. On Friday, Ms. Molinaro said the village has no control over the rate, citing obligations to provide health care.

“The budget is good,” Mr. Teller said, referring to the spending plan put together by Ms. Molinaro. “It is under the line and we more or less have accommodated all the department heads with necessary equipment. We are still able to function.”

Deputy Mayor Hank Tucker did not return calls seeking comment on the proposed spending plan.

Shopping Center
Moving Forward

Plans to renovate the vacant bowling alley building on Sunset Avenue in Westhampton Beach are advancing before the village’s planning board and could be approved by the start of the summer.

According to Building and Zoning Administrator Paul Houlihan, the plan calls for extensive renovations to the 20,000-square-foot building, which is owned by Sunset West LLC. The plan is to build a 50-seat restaurant, two shops each with the ability to have up to 16 seats and serve food and drinks, similar to a luncheonette or bakery, and eight retail stores.

As of this week, the project is awaiting approval of a stormwater pollution prevention plan and, after that, final approval from the Suffolk County Board of Health. Both are expected to be approved within the next month.

In order for the permits to be approved, a public hearing regarding the 50-seat restaurant—a potential tenant has not yet been identified—will be held during the next trustees meeting on April 4.

The bowling alley building transformation is part of a larger plan to revitalize the western side of Sunset Avenue. The plan calls for the construction of two more retail buildings, each 5,000 square feet in size. The first will be sited on a half-acre lot on the corner of Mill Road and Sunset Avenue that is owned by Teserra LLC; the second will be located in the current bowling alley parking lot. There will be 101 parking spaces created for the three buildings.

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Why would the Mayor need to hire anyone else? The Village is overburdened with employees, healthcare, and pension obligations as it is! Look at the Village parking lot with numerous Police cars sitting there they dont even need. Time to start cutting back.
By realistic (472), westhampton on Mar 27, 13 12:39 PM
Facts Realistic, facts. You have no idea what you are talking about.
By Sunbeam (3), Brookhaven on Mar 30, 13 4:19 PM
No idea what I am talking about? Did you read the article? Pension obligations GOING WAY UP! Hmmmmm. You probably want to increase my taxes even more! Are you a govt worker living off my hard work?
By realistic (472), westhampton on Mar 30, 13 8:05 PM
I did read the article. I was responding to your comment about the Village needing to cut back. Are you aware of cut backs that were already made?. Are you aware that the Mayor and Trustees have not gone above the 2% cap unlike other local governments? You just type without knowing the facts. If you knew the facts you would be thanking the Mayor and the Trustees for the work they have done.
I am in the public sector along with the Highway, Parks, Police, and other municipal workers. If it wasn't ...more
By Sunbeam (3), Brookhaven on Apr 1, 13 3:09 PM
Yes and if it wasnt for tax payers like myself you would have a job- outrageous pay packages and benefits.The best thing for the Town and Village to do is bid out all highway- parks- infrastructure work and let the low qualified low bidder perform the work. You might pay taxes like the rest of us do but with you pay and benefit packages you suck it up a little while we suck it up a lot. Especially for the work being performed. As far a thanking this Mayor have you been to any of his meeting and ...more
By realistic (472), westhampton on Apr 2, 13 7:32 AM