No tax hike, 10 increased fees in East Williston

Noah Manskar
Michael Delury, the East Williston village treasurer, speaks at a Board of Trustees meeting on April 3, 2017. (Photo by Noah Manskar)

East Williston residents won’t see higher village taxes in the coming year, but may have to pay more for certain village permits.

The village Board of Trustees unanimously approved a $2.56 million 2017-18 budget Monday night that keeps revenue from property taxes flat and allocates $340,000 for three major capital projects.

The board also unanimously voted to increase nine fees and create a new one in an effort to better cover village costs and bring its charges in line with neighboring municipalities, Michael Delury, the village treasurer, said.

“I don’t like to recommend increasing fees, but if I think it’s appropriate, I would make that recommendation,” Delury said at Monday’s Board of Trustees meeting.

The fee hikes range in size from $4 to $50. Affected fees include burglar alarm permits, up to $35 from $5; a parking permit replacement fee, up to $5 from $1; a planning board application fee, up to $800 from $750; and a new $20 charge applied if a resident’s check to the village bounces.

The village had not hiked any fees except parking permits for several years, Delury said. More increases will likely be unnecessary for at least five years, he said.

The village is not relying on the hikes to keep taxes down. Fee revenue is expected to fall slightly in the adopted village budget to $123,000 from $125,200 in the current year.

While the $2 million tax levy is not changing, the village property tax rate is set to decline 1.57 percent because the total assessed value of property has increased, Delury said.

Village taxes comprise only a small portion of the average tax bill. School district taxes account for about two-thirds of taxes.

East Williston plans to install security cameras at the Devlin Field park, install new LED street lights and repair sidewalks on East Williston Avenue using money from its capital fund, which Delury said reflects a “forward vision” for the village.

The village is using nearly $134,000 in reserve funds to help pay for the projects rather than raising taxes or borrowing money, Mayor David Tanner said.

The capital fund budgets $100,000 for the street lights and $40,000 for the security cameras. Village officials have said both will help make East Williston more secure, a concern raised by a vocal group of residents since a pair of burglaries last summer.

The village has planned to install the cameras for several months, but plans to meet with a vendor soon, Tanner said. He declined to name the vendor.

“We’re still trying to wrap our hands around what we want and what suits us,” Tanner said.

The energy-efficient street lights are also expected to cut the village’s electricity costs in the long run, Tanner said.

The capital budget includes $200,000 for the sidewalk fixes in the current fiscal year because they could start as soon as May, before the start of the new year in July, Tanner said.

At Monday’s hearing on the budget, Stephan Leccese, a resident and an advocate for increased security measures, praised the village’s use of reserve funds for capital work.

But he said the village should reassess the value of all homes each year, not just a few, to ensure no household is taxed unfairly.

“You get out of the unequal assessment at that point, right, because everybody’s house is assessed at the same rate,” Leccese said.

Jeffrey Blinkoff, the village attorney, said the village could do that if it wanted to spend more on assessment services each year.

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