Proposed Monroe village tax rate up nearly 10 percent; public comment rises, too

| 21 Feb 2012 | 10:58

    MONROE-The public hearing on the Village of Monroe's 2005-06 preliminary budget on April 5 was a spirited affair, with a number of residents in the capacity crowd questioning the salaries of the board, the need for certain positions and frustration at a nearly 10 percent increase in the proposed tax rate. The preliminary budget totals $6,046,523 for General Fund expenses and $1.39 million for the Water Fund. A proposed tax rate of $24.94 per $1,000 of assessed valuation would be a 9.96 percent increase. The spending proposal also would provide a maximum annual compensation of $26,000 for the mayor and $7,874 per year for each of the trustees. And with that, the public's questions began. Andrew Barone said he was concerned with what he claimed was a standard 25 percent allocation for numerous budget line items such as: board salaries, allocations for the auditor, treasurer, village clerk, deputy clerk, attorney as well as electricity and worker's compensation. "It is obvious," Barone said, "that a strict 25 percent for each and every line item is arbitrary and cannot be justified by any rationale." Meanwhile, Charles Kirk criticized Police Department salaries and overtime costs of the police officers. He said the proposed budget includes a $30,000 increase in over time, a 35 percent rise over last year. He also asked why the police chief needs a secretary. "We have a Police Secretary who makes $35,000," he said. "Do we need a secretary for the Police Chief?" Other concerns voiced were the absence of a fire contract with the Village of Kiryas Joel, tax increases exceeding the cost of living and part-time elected officials receiving full-time health care benefits. Mayor Joseph Mancuso said he wanted to make it clear to all in attendance that comments from the public are not necessarily true, although the public's input would be taken into consideration before the adoption of the budget. He also stated that he tries to run village government in a way that's practical and the public is welcome to provide input at the budget workshops. Trustee John Karl asked to present budget comments as a member of the board. He said he's twice brought legislation before the board, including last Dec. 7, regarding health insurance for elected and appointed officials. "This has yet to come to a vote," he said. Karl added that in the current fiscal year, the village will pay $5,741.88 for the mayor's health insurance, one trustee's medical benefit for $12,164.16 and a cash buy-out for another at $3,041.04. He said the part-time village attorney and an ex-trustee receive a health insurance benefit of $12,164.16 each. Karl reviewed the village attorney's compensation - a salary of $26,662.04, the $12,164.16 health benefit and an additional $3,543.50 - cost the village of $42,369.70. He estimated that for the 49.7 hours worked by the attorney since last June, he received $853 per hour. Karl also complained about police salaries and overtime and the absence of any revenue pertaining to the Kiryas Joel fire contract in 10 months. He said he will not accept any pay raise as Village Trustee. In other business: • Attorney Benjamin Ostrer spoke on behalf of the "All Mine" subdivision on Mine Road. Developer Edward Biagini is willing to permit the village to install needed valves in the village water line easement on the property and he is interested in obtaining connections for the projects' 21 lots. A portion of the All Mine property that is contiguous with the Monroe-Woodbury School Bus Garage is within the border of the Town of Monroe. Biagini also petitioned for the annexation of the lands into the village which the board voted favorably.