All but one North Bay Village commissioner voted to tentatively approve the budget for the next fiscal year as proposed by the village manager, which would have the village operating on a budget of roughly $6 million.
Last month, officials unanimously approved keeping the property tax rate at it’s current level of $5.47 per $1,000 of taxable property value. But on Thursday, Commissioner Richard Chervony suggested the village lower the tax rate, cutting the budget by close to $500,000.
While the village had chosen to not raise property taxes, citizen’s tax bills would still go up because of the rise in property values. To avoid the rise in taxes, local governments can choose to set property tax rates to what is called the “rollback rate,” which is what Chervony suggested the village do.
“There’s a couple positions that are open. I’m not saying fire anybody, just not fill those positions. There’s also slush funds in some of the departments,” Chervony said, listing out things that could be cut from the budget: Winter Wonderland celebration, a celebration of the village’s 70th anniversary, a part-time code enforcement officer. “I think we can really come up with the rate and not hurt ourselves.”
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Village Manager Frank Rollason said he could re-do the budget to the property tax rate that the commission approves, but added he doesn’t “want to chop heads.”
“Eventually, to get to the rollback, it’ll be personnel or going into the reserves,” Rollason said. “I can’t produce any other revenues.”
He also said there isn’t much to be cut from the departments.
“When I came here the first year, I cut the departments tremendously. There is no slush money in here,” Rollason said. “We will bring you back a budget to the [property tax rate] that you tell us. I’m proposing we stay pat.”
Nevertheless, the village voted 4-1 on the budget as proposed by the manager, with Chervony dissenting on both the budget and the property tax rate.
“We have to be very careful that we don’t affect the quality of life of our residents. We don’t want to be penny-pinching and pound foolish,” said Mayor Connie Leon-Kreps.
“That’s not what any of our residents are looking for. Nobody’s convinced me yet that we should go back to the rollback rate,” said Commissioner Jorge Gonzalez.
In the proposed budget, the village will add a part-time code-enforcement officer to assist the current code enforcement employee, who has been fighting pneumonia for months.
The village also budgeted $25,000 for a Winter Wonderland event, and for a 70th Anniversary celebration of the village, which will be tied to the Fourth of July Celebration.
“It’s an important milestone in the village, and we haven’t had fireworks in years. We thought, we could get some fireworks in here,” Rollason said.
Village officials also questioned the impact of the city’s deteriorating water infrastructure on this, and subsequent budgets. While this year the city did not raise it’s water utility fees, Rollason has warned that there is no way to avoid the rise as soon as next budget year.
“It’s coming,” Rollason said.
The issue was not included in the presentation of the budget, but at the request of officials, it will take the stage at the final budget hearing.
That hearing is scheduled for Sept. 22 at 7 p.m. in the Village Commission Chamber, 1666 Kennedy Causeway.