Village Board adopts $9.3 million budget

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The Westhampton Beach Village Board adopted a $9.3 million budget last Thursday night, April 3, a spending plan that will provide village homeowners with a slight tax break next year.

The 2008-2009 budget increases overall spending by almost $140,000, or 1.5 percent, over the current $9.2 million budget. The real property tax levy is expected to jump by 2.4 percent next year, or by more than $167,000 to just over $7 million.

Overall, the budget will result in a tax rate of $2.39 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, one cent lower than the current rate of $2.40 per $1,000, according to officials. As a result, a taxpayer whose home is assessed at $1 million will pay about $2,390 in village taxes next year, or about $5 less than this year.

The spending, which was adopted by a 5-0 margin, spurred a few questions from the audience. One person asked board members about the $500 they had cut in the police department budget for a police matron, a female officer who assists with female prisoners on an as-needed basis. The board opted to cut that budget line because the officer’s assistance has not been needed, according to Westhampton Beach Village Clerk Kathy McGinnis.

Another audience member asked why the village increased funding for its dispatchers, upping the amount from $166,192 this year to $183,250 next year. Ms. McGinnis explained that, starting in January, a part-time dispatcher will be appointed to a full-time post and collect an annual salary of $36,500. The dispatcher is now making about $17,000.

An attorney in the audience questioned the amount of money the village has set aside next year to pay legal fees. The adopted budget, which covers expenditures from June 1, 2008, until May 31, 2009, allocates $377,600 to cover attorney fees, down from the $400,000 allocated in this year’s spending plan.

“The legal fees didn’t go up this year,” said Bo Bishop, the village attorney, in response to a question raised about litigation that gets settled outside of court. “If we can resolve cases, we’ll resolve them. Unfortunately, people want what they want and would rather go to court. And we have nothing to do but defend the Village Board and their decision.”

Mr. Bishop explained that the village is currently engaged in seven different court cases, including a lawsuit with the Suffolk Asphalt plant on Rogers Avenue and another with East End Cement and Stone on Hazelwood Avenue. In 2005, Suffolk Asphalt filed a lawsuit against the village, claiming that an amortization law that the board passed in 2000, requiring that the plant close down, was unconstitutional. Board members sued East End Cement and Stone after the company constructed illegal structures on the property, according to the village.

The remaining five court cases involve applicants that are suing the village after their proposals were rejected by the Westhampton Beach Zoning Board of Appeals, according to Mr. Bishop.

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