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Feb 22, 2012 9:02 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Westhampton Beach Village To Consider Law To Override Tax Cap

Feb 22, 2012 9:13 AM

The Westhampton Beach Village Board is making plans now in case it must pierce the state’s new tax cap when adopting the municipality’s 2012-13 budget this spring.

At their work session on February 15, board members announced that they will schedule a public hearing at their next meeting on Thursday, March 1. The point of that hearing will be to enact a local law that will allow the municipality to override the 2 percent tax cap—if necessary.

Though a date has not been set yet, the hearing will be held just prior to a public hearing on the village’s proposed spending plan for 2012-13. Village officials have not yet released a figure for next year’s budget.

The new law limits a municipality’s tax levy, capping the amount of money that can be raised through property taxes in any given year by 2 percent or the rate of inflation—whichever is lower. Municipalities who want to override the cap must first enact a local law.

Westhampton Beach Village Clerk Rebecca Molinaro, who is putting together the initial budget documents for board review, said Albany is advising municipalities to adopt a local law to pierce the cap even if they produce a budget that comes in under that cap.

“The reason being is they have, unfortunately, admitted that they will not be able to verify that municipalities are complying with the law the first year,” Ms. Molinaro explained in a presentation to the board last week.

If a municipality inadvertently over-collects its levy in a given year and is audited, it must reduce the tax levy in the next fiscal year by the amount it over-collected, thereby reducing the revenues that can be collected to balance the budget. Ms. Molinaro described the state’s inability to verify that governments and school districts are staying within the cap as “a little unnerving.”

For the current fiscal year, the board is working within a budget of $9.3 million, and the current tax levy is $7.75 million—an increase of almost 5.7 percent over the previous year. The board intends to hold its work session on its 2012-13 budget on Wednesday, March 21. By law, the village must adopt its spending plan before May 1.

“It’s in the village’s best interest to adopt a local law even though, as far as I know, we have every intention of adopting a budget that complies with the tax cap,” Ms. Molinaro said.

Village Attorney Richard Haefeli said while a local law that overrides the cap could be challenged in court, that scenario is not likely to happen.

While the cap allows local governments to calculate some exemptions into the budget, a move that legally puts them over the 2 percent levy, Ms. Molinaro is concerned that some inaccuracies might occur when calculating them. She explained that she’s concerned that if a mistake is made, and no one in Albany is double-checking the information this year, the village could later be punished for the error.

“The local law to override the cap will only ensure that if we mistakenly exceed it, at least we complied with the law,” Ms. Molinaro said. “It does not necessarily safeguard us, since the end result is the same. A municipality will have to recoup the monies by lowering the tax levy in the subsequent fiscal year by the amount that was over-collected.”

Village Board member Hank Tucker agreed that putting a local law on the books to pierce the cap was a good idea.

“We have to,” he said. “If we don’t do it then, we can’t override it and we’ll have bigger problems.”

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I would hope the Village of Westhampton Beach will not play follow-the-the-leader with Quogue and vote to pierce the 2% tax cap if necessary. Its time our Governments learn to operate within their current tax structure no matter how painful it becomes- just like the general public has been doing. The percentage increases add up after a few years and I cant remember when the budget was steady or even decreased.
By realistic (468), westhampton on Feb 23, 12 7:32 AM
Of course they will override the cap. Quogue & WHB have to pay for all those patronage positions somehow. Plus, between both of their Village Offices, Police
Dept's & Schools - how else could they cover the double & triple dippers working there? These people need their multiple position jobs and the huge combined salaries! Let's not forget the cushy healthcare plan & bloated pension packages.

Get used to it folks - this will happen every year.
By G (339), Southampton on Feb 23, 12 8:04 AM
Re: "all those patronage positions"

Names, positions -- share share!
By Frank Wheeler (1823), Northampton on Feb 23, 12 9:25 AM
Really, G, name one. And may I ask, why are you blaming village gov't for anything with the schools?
By But I'm a blank! (1283), Hampton Bays on Feb 23, 12 4:35 PM
Hmmm- lets see. Who ran the beach last year and whos she related to???
By realistic (468), westhampton on Feb 23, 12 1:50 PM
Well if we name names, someone will complain & the Ed will delete the post.
So, in both Quogue Village and it's schools - there are several who hold 2-3 jobs each. The Village Office has the worst offender who works as Code, the "court protector" among other salaries. As for the School - look at the top positions in the QSD and wonder why 2 people have 2-3 of the top jobs themselves. If they ever got audited they would be shut down. As for the Police - their schedule is tuned so they can all ...more
By G (339), Southampton on Feb 24, 12 8:49 AM
Lets also look at one of the Schools where the Principal has a husband as a teacher. How do you manage this relationship if theres a complaint by anyone- which I hear there are but no-ones complaining for obvious reasons.- How about a school board member who has the largest vendor contract with the district. How do you properly manage the bid situations on this one. Legally I believe the degree of transparancy is the strongest in the 2nd situation. Should we go on?
By realistic (468), westhampton on Feb 24, 12 10:06 AM
Sorry, G, you are losing credibility. I asked you to name one, either a person or position in village governement that is a double dipper. You can't, because there are none and you made it up. Please separate schools from village as there is NO connection.
Come on now , please, just ONE single patronage position.
By But I'm a blank! (1283), Hampton Bays on Feb 24, 12 11:50 AM
The village now has to post the Monthly Meeting Agendas on the Village Website, so now there are no surprises to anyone as to what will be discussed. So now we all know that this will be discussed this Thursday at 7:00 So I hope everyone shows up at this meeting, it is important that those we elect do what is in the best interest for the village taax payers.

Say No , And Ask Why !!!
By Shock (47), on Feb 28, 12 9:47 PM
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