As Port Jefferson Village officials work on crafting a budget for the upcoming fiscal year, Treasurer Don Pearce reported on Monday night that while increases in spending shouldn't be too much of a problem, the revenue side of the equation could prove to be quite a challenge.
Pearce and Village Board members discussed a preliminary budget proposal on Monday night at a work session, after the treasurer had discussed with department heads what would be necessary in next year's spending plan.
"We do not have, in my opinion, an expense problem here. But we have a severe revenue problem," Pearce said.
Pearce's initial numbers project an overall 3.5 percent year-over-year increase in expenses, resulting in a $9.65 million budget. But beside a mortgage tax base that has been sliding for years – from almost $1 million five years ago to $250,000 this year – as well as slowed building fee revenue, at least over $190,000 in revenue the village had seen last year won't be there.
Pearce said $140,000 in state funding for highway projects, better known as CHIPS (Consolidated Highway Improvement Program), would not be available to the village, and with Sprint/Nextel choosing not to renew a cell tower lease with the village, another $52,000 will not be coming in either.
Village leaders expressed skepticism at the thought of a hole in the CHIPS line item, however. The funds – totaling over $360 million statewide last year – are typically remibursed to municipalities after work from the previous year is done meeting certain qualifications. Mayor Margot Garant and trustees said the village has done roadwork up to that standard over the past year, and officials are expected to meet with state Sen. Ken LaValle's office in the near future to discuss the reasoning.
The cell tower funding is gone, however, and while Pearce said at Monday's meeting that rent with Lombardi's at the Port Jefferson Country Club would have to be discussed, no details nor dollar amounts were noted.
Pearce added in an interview on Tuesday that the village will likely have to dip into its reserves more than it had budgeted in the current year, due to shortfalls likely on their way in permit fees and court revenues. He added that CHIPS funding will not be available to the village this year as well, despite budgeting $140,000 for it.
The trasurer said, however, that coming up with an exact tax levy at this point remains impossible since assessments are not in yet. They arrive April 1, two weeks before an April 15 public hearing on the budget.