At the Glen Cove City Council meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 13, three public hearings were held, including a discussion of the proposed budget for 2016. The mayor has proposed the budget for next year, with the projected revenues and appropriations from all funds totaling $77,845,655, nearly $3 million higher than the current year’s budget, yet will amount to a 0 percent increase in taxes for homeowners and a 0.95 percent increase for commercial property owners. A vote will be taken on the budget at the next city council meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 27.
“We face many challenges in this year’s budget,” said Mayor Reginald Spinello. “There are a lot of events that went on this year.”
Some of those included the LIPA property, which used to be tax revenue, became a PILOT, resulting in a loss of $174,000, the mayor said and fringe benefits and contractual obligations saw increases. He said he put in a conservative amount of the estimated revenue from the sale of the waterfront of $3.5 million, but the city will likely see more.
“A lot of good things will be happening with the sale of this waterfront, financially, and it will help Glen Cove,” said Spinello. “We’re trying to hold the line on taxes and the waterfront is one of the keys…we’re finally near the finish line.”
Councilman Tony Gallo, who is challenging the mayor in the upcoming Nov. 3 election, questioned Spinello on the 7 percent budget-to-budget increase, asking specifically what accounts for those increases.
“It’s a bit tricky to do the budget, since tax certs and different borrowings get added into the adjusted budget and we don’t know what will happen,” said Spinello, adding that for employees who might get a 2 percent raise, the city actually pays a lot more. “They get pay increase plus step increases and overtime rates and pension rates go up. It adds up in that way.”
City Controller Sal Lombardi explained that some expenses went up, like for the baseball program and camps, but the money came back from fees to offset costs.
“We control the expenses we can control, but for those we have contracts for, there’s not much we can do,” said Lombardi. “We have to work within those percentages that are negotiated and do the best we can.”
Of the budget, Gallo maintained: “It seems like we’re over spending here; I’m looking to increase spending more slowly.”
“We’re looking for other revenue sources that don’t burden the tax payers,” said Spinello. “It’s very hard to keep up revenues with expenses, because at some point you’re going to cut into services. We try to grow revenue and manage expenses.”
Gallo questioned the sale price of the waterfront redevelopment, saying that “$3.5 million is not good enough.”
Gallo asked: “What will we do in 2017 when we don’t have a waterfront to sell?”
Spinello said, “The sale price is $15 million, but the juice is in the other things, an assortment of fees, that will total $10-12 million. I’m using a conservative number, but there’s going to be more.”
“I believe it is a reckless gamble,” said Gallo. “We are really mortgaging our future here.”
A resident brought up her concerns about the waterfront project, asserting that the sale price is not enough and won’t cover what has already been paid by taxpayers.
“The waterfront is not going to save us,” she said. “We don’t have a record of decision yet or approval for residential housing. You can’t clean this up and it’s not going to bring us the money…this has been the rumination of us.”
Glenn Howard said, “The discussion that I’ve heard between the mayor and city council person brings to mind the fact that the city council person has never been at a school board meeting to protest what we pay in school taxes, which is one of the largest taxes that we ever pay. The school taxes are through the roof and every year they go up, and every year the union gets their step increases, their increases in salary. Their pensions are paid, their healthcare is paid. I don’t understand how anyone can sit up there and complain about how well you’ve done on the budget this year and not take on what is the worst tax hit in this city, or any place on Long Island.”
Marsha Silverman said, “Last year I said a number of things that concerned me with last year’s budget and this year I see the same things.”
She said that for the last two years, it is $2.5 million over budget.
“Why don’t you do a three to five year outlook to budget in to see what it will look like over the next few years?” asked Silverman. “Why don’t you show us why you say it will look so good?”
Lombardi explained that the budget column is adopted from 2015 and the projected budget includes borrowing throughout the year.
“Those bonded items become revenue, so the budget gets amended throughout the course of the year,” said Lombardi. “Based on my adjusted appropriations, we will be underspending by the end of the year.”
Read the complete proposed budget at www.glencove-li.us.