The Glen Cove City Council passed a budget of $63 million for 2021 on Oct. 27. The budget passed alongside a 7.32 percent tax hike and included the loss of eight city jobs.
Many Glen Cove residents and few members of the city council contested Mayor Timothy Tenke during the Zoom city council meeting, arguing that now, amid mass job and wage losses due to the pandemic, is not the time to impose higher taxes.
Mayor Tenke shared during the meeting that the “questionable” practice of using one-shot revenues that got the city by in the past would not be continued. That, paired with the expected loss of $769,378 in state and county aid due to the pandemic, were also cause for such a high tax levy for 2021.
“We must move the city forward and work towards building a much more secure and financially responsible future for our residents,” Tenke said. “We must act accordingly and be champions of fiscal responsibility and prudence.”
During the public hearing, many residents voiced their concerns with the tax levy increase and offered alternative solutions, like selling parking spaces and beach passes to nonresidents.
One Glen Cove resident, whose name was indistinguishable on the Zoom call, urged the council to vote no on the budget.
“Please go back to the drawing board and start over,” she said. “At a time when people are not working and are underemployed, it’s really a tragedy.”
Councilwoman Marsha Silverman was a strong opponent of piercing the tax cap. Silverman disagreed with many of the proposed cuts and said that other options could and should be explored to lessen the burden on the taxpayers. She also noted that Tuesday’s hearing was technically only the first of two public hearings where the public can participate to the fullest extent, citing technological issues that limited them in a previous hearing. Silverman proposed a delay in the vote to hear more from the public, which was overruled.
“The council has had other suggestions,” Silverman said. “We have still been trying to challenge this budget and with a little extra time, we could find some more improvements.”
The budget passed via a 4-2 vote from the council, with Mayor Tenke abstaining from the vote as required under the city charter. A total of $301,900 in additional budget cuts, plus a $57,500 increase in miscellaneous revenue, aided in reducing the originally proposed 7.9 percent tax levy.
Silverman voted against the budget, saying the council needs to do better. She cited years of failing to do long-term planning for the city, bringing them to the “worst position they have been in years.”
“Our residents are hurting,” she said. “Jobs have been lost. Businesses have failed. Lives have been lost, all due to the pandemic. Now is not the time to do business as usual.
At the start of the pandemic, Silverman said she repeatedly asked for a plan to protect taxpayers and deal with loss of revenues.
“When we face a pandemic and you are in a leadership role, you have to plan. We did not have one, and that exacerbated the economic situation we’ve been in over the last several years,” she said.
Councilman Gaitley Stevenson-Matthews also voted against the budget. He noted that the city, businesses and residents are in a really “tough spot,” and if the budget was closer to the tax cap he may have felt differently about it.
“I don’t think we are where we should be with this budget,” Stevenson-Matthews said. “At the end of the day, our responsibility is to the taxpayer. Especially now, we cannot go to that 7.32 [percent] and I feel we should be closer to that cap—that is too wide a margin.”
Mayor Tenke said not voting for piercing the tax cap would have had worse consequences for Glen Cove.
“We’ve gotten to the point now, where we have to make the decision and not further put the city in financial distress going forward,” he said.
Jada Butler is a contributing writer for Anton Media Group