Kings Point officials defend budget, cameras at heated meeting

Jessica Ablamksy

Kings Point residents packed Village Hall on April 27 for a second budget hearing that saw no change to the previously approved 2011-2012 budget, but found Village of Kings Point trustees explaining the increase and answering questions from the occasionally hostile crowd for nearly three hours.

“Everybody loves the police,” said Village of Kings Point trustee Ron Horowitz. “Everybody loves the way the highway department takes care of the snow. The one thing is, nobody wants to pay the increase.”

The Kings Point Civic Association had been leading the opposition to the 9.8 percent tax increase. A petition with nearly 70 signatures called on trustees to approve a budget with no tax increase.

Village of Kings Point trustees unanimously approved next year’s budget on March 31. Village residents will see an increase of $3.07 per $100 assessed value under the budget, or $34.32 per $100 assessed value, up from $31.25 per $100 assessed value.

Village

Village of Kings Point Mayor Michael Kalnick previously said costs rose 13 percent but trustees were able to cut spending to reduce the impact on residents.

Throughout the meeting Kalnick said trustees had no control over most of the increase, which he said was due to unfunded state mandates such as increased contributions to the state pension fund and binding arbitration awards.

Contributions to the state pension fund went up more than $418,000, while health insurance rose $148,000. The village police force makes up nearly half the budget.

“I think every resident in the village appreciates our police department,” Kalnick said to applause. “Our response time is generally under two minutes and usually much faster than that. We have been informed by Nassau county not to count on them in an emergency.”

In the event of a school shooter or attack on a house of worship, he said it could take 45 minutes for the Nassau County Police Department to respond.

“We have a duty to protect our children and our parishioners,” he said.

Kings Point police carry automatic weapons that they are trained to use.

The 9.8 percent tax increase is about $650 per year, which is not a significant increase for Village of Kings Point residents, said Trustee David Harounian in a statement that provoked groans from the crowd, followed by applause.

“We are not here to defend ourselves,” he said. “I wish that you were all here to thank us for what we have done, to what we have been doing, but not to bicker because we were forced to raise taxes, which in this village where we live a $650 increase should not be so significant.”

Some residents spoke in defense of the tax increase.

“As a cardiologist, having a police department that can respond with a defibrillator is worth than $600,” said one man. “Most of this audience are not kids. Anything can happen at anytime.”

He suggested improved communication between trustees and residents, and a redirection of anger from trustees to the state Legislature for balancing their books at the expense of towns and villages.

The first half of the question and answer session was dominated by a discussion about the village’s plan to install security cameras, with most residents in favor.

Kalnick said a three-phase plan to cover every entrance and exit to the village with license plate reading cameras would cost residents $100 per year for five years and require no additional manpower. Cameras will be monitored by desk officers, he said.

“I think that it is money very well spend to protect our children and our homes,” said one resident.

In a series of exchanges, trustees were criticized for a lack of transparency regarding village finances and not following the will of the people.

Asked about Village Hall that one resident described as palatial, Kalnick said, “We had meetings galore. Where were you? You liked the old building? A police officer fell through the floor. It was rotting away.”

The tone turned accusatory during the second half of the question and answer session, with residents expressing anger at the tax increase.

“My taxes are going to up $1400, not $600,” said one resident. I would like to retire one day, but I can’t.”

The physician said she expects to pay $60,000 in property taxes.

Kalnick opened the question and answer session by answering questions raised by the civic association.

He said legal expenses “in defense of the status of the property off Kings Point Road” that Village officials planned to sell to pay for a new public works facility are being paid for by a title insurance company. A lawsuit to halt those plans was brought on by three residents of the Village of Great Neck.

“Otherwise it would cost our residents, give or take, $3.5 million,” he said.

Answering a point made repeatedly by Kings Point Civic Association President Marsha Rotman, Kalnick said village residents can expect a new Web site in about a month. The new site is being designed in-house and will feature meeting dates and other documents.

A presentation by Dvirka and Bartilucci Consulting Engineers laid out the village’s multi-million dollar road projects, and informed residents when they could expect their street to be repaved.

Kings Point Police Commissioner Jack Miller said the village police staff is down two officers, but overtime is less expensive than adding more cops to the payroll. He said overtime expenses were due mostly to special events, last winter’s rash of burglaries and the microburst.

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Jessica Ablamksy

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