LG Mayor’s Desk: We Have to Ask Why
Dear Lake Grove Residents,
In my time as a Village Official and public servant, I have seen many changes in the way we work as a municipality and interact with other levels of government. Villages historically are very budget conscious and have been sharing services for the most efficient way to operate and get the most out of our tax dollars. While we are the level of government closest to the people, we are more connected to our constituents and share your concerns. We meet you on the soccer fields, in the local stores, in places of worship and while fueling up at neighborhood gas stations. For those reasons we are more accountable, as we should be in all of the decisions we make on a daily basis. Most of all, we pay the same taxes at every level as those we represent.
The State, under the leadership of our Governor, has directed that we stay within a two percent tax cap each year, and due to the way the cap is calculated it has been as low as six tenths of a percent. We have managed to stay under the cap while the State continues increase the cost of things the Village is required to pay, such as pensions and benefits for our workers, as they continue to reduce our State Aid.
The County has cut deeply into the amount of revenue we receive in our Justice Court. On April 1, 2013, the County established the Traffic Violations Bureau (TVB) in Hauppauge, in which all fines paid for traffic infractions, including those within the village’s jurisdiction, can go directly to the TVB instead of Village Courts. This has resulted in a significant loss of revenue to our Village and other villages within the County that have their own Justice Courts.
While upper levels of government continue to divest villages of revenue they once earned, received and have depended on to balance their budgets, we are asked to keep our taxes within the tax cap. The revenue forfeited to these upper levels of government make it appear as though they are doing a better job controlling their budgets, while the trickledown effect is actually just a tax shift resulting from the shifting of revenue.
Villages continue to be the most efficient form of government and can certainly do a much better job of stretching these funds that have been removed from our budgets. We have been resourceful in managing our budgets by continuing to share services, and being very cognizant of appropriately using the bidding and purchasing processes to our advantage. In other words, we spend the money as if it were coming out of our own pockets; which in reality it actually is.
The Suffolk County villages do have a voice with the County and the State through the Suffolk County Village Officials Association (SCVOA) and through the New York State Conference of Mayors (NYCOM) and will continue to work to retain as much revenue as we can through all legal avenues that exist. Our reserve funds are being depleted to the point where it will eventually start to affect the high level of services that we provide or result in tax increases due to the loss of revenue. It’s time for us to ask why we are being put in this position. A position, I think that more people need to be made aware of.
Robert J. Scottaline
Incorporated Village of Lake Grove