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Apr 1, 2009 2:40 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Spending will be down, taxes up under proposed Quogue Village budget

Apr 1, 2009 2:40 PM

Spending under the tentative 2009-10 budget for Quogue Village is expected to total $6.87 million, a 1.2-percent decrease over the current year, though village property taxes are still expected to climb by 5.1 percent next year due primarily to a projected decrease in revenues.

Property taxes are expected to increase from this year’s tax rate of $1.56 to $1.64 per $1,000 of assessed value under the proposed spending plan, which Village Board members expect to adopt during their April meeting. About $5.5 million of the budget will be raised through property taxes, a jump of 5.8 percent from the $5.2 million raised in the current spending cycle.

Using those figures, a taxpayer whose home is assessed at $1 million would pay approximately $1,640 in village property taxes next year, an increase of about $80 over the current year. The village assessment, which is the projected value of all Quogue properties, will hold steady at approximately $3.4 billion next year, according to village officials.

Quogue Mayor George Motz chalked up the tax hike to decreases in projected revenues and a reduction in the amount of money that will be taken next year from the village’s reserve fund. The village raised about $1.75 million in revenues this year, a figure that is expected to drop to $1.2 million next year due mostly to the sagging real estate market.

The mayor explained that a reduction in the number of new homes built in the village has resulted in a sharp decrease in the fees paid to both the Quogue Building Department and Planning Board. According to a copy of the tentative budget, the village raised $75,000 in Planning Board fees this year, though that figure is expected to drop to just $10,000 next year.

“What really fell was the building permits,” Mr. Motz said. Village Building Inspector Ed Wolfersdorf did not return calls this week inquiring about the number of permits issued by his department. However, Mr. Motz said he expects building department fees to drop by $100,000 next year.

Additionally, the mayor explained that, earlier this year, $250,000 was transferred from the village’s reserve fund to stabilize taxes for this year. As a result, village taxes decreased by more than 11 percent while leaving about $1.2 million in the municipality’s reserve fund.

Noting that Village Board members are well aware of the economic downturn, the mayor said they will only spend about $150,000 from the reserve fund next year to keep taxes stable. “You can’t assume the economy will snap back,” he said.

Mr. Motz explained that the village has been able to draw from its reserve fund in recent years because it has traditionally collected more revenue than anticipated. He added that it is recommended that the village keep a reserve fund that is equal to about 15 percent of the total budget. Using that figure, the village should keep at least $1 million in its reserve fund.

“We’re trying to ease the pain on the taxpayer in a tough time,” Mr. Motz added.

The village is also expected to see a decrease in state aid next year. Quogue received $375,000 from Albany this year, though that figure is expected to fall to $250,000 next year.

“It was definitely more challenging,” Mr. Motz said about this year’s budgeting process. “You’re making a budget in an economic world that is very uncertain, so you have to take a conservative approach to things.”

In light of the economic downturn, the Village Board worked to reduce overall spending by about 1.2 percent next year. The current budget totals about $6.95 million. Mr. Motz said the biggest drop in expenditures is on the budget line for the Quogue Village Police Department.

Quogue Police Chief Robert Coughlan said his department has kept one officer position vacant since July 2008, adding that a new officer will not be hired until June 2010. The delay will save the village $56,320 a year—the salary that would have been collected by the officer—over two years for a total of $112,640.

The village currently has 13 full-time officers, one less than what Chief Coughlan said would be considered a full staff. He added that his department will only purchase two new police cruisers next year instead of three, saving the village an additional $30,000.

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Quogue Village does not need another police officer to trap drivers!
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