Village of Valley Stream's budget increase stays within state cap


Village officials discussed a tentative draft of the 2017-18 budget Monday night, which included a property tax levy increase of 1.25 percent — on average, about $55 per household — that fell just below the state’s tax cap.

The current tax levy pierced the cap, which marked a departure for the village from a recent trend of using reserves to pay its bills rather than relying on tax increases. Such practices were part of a long-term spending plan to ease the tax burden on residents, and were decided before State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli warned that the village was susceptible to fiscal stress last year.

The current budget was the first in eight years that did not use reserves. That consistent practice, especially as harsh winters sent expenses soaring, reduced the reserve fund from $10 million to $2 million in that time span.

With the proposed budget, which covers the fiscal year from June 2017 through May 2018, officials said they were on course to decrease their fiscal stress rating and rebuild depleted reserves.

“Our score went down in the right direction, just not significantly enough to take us out of the ‘susceptible’ category,” Village Treasurer Michael Fox said, referring to DiNapoli’s fiscal stress report.

In the 2016 fiscal year, the village received a stress score of 50.8 percent, down 1.7 percent from the previous year. DiNapoli’s report said that the number of Long Island villages in stress declined from seven to just one — Valley Stream — over a three-year period. However, 28 villages did not file sufficient data each of the past three years and, as a result, have not received fiscal stress scores.

Because the report aggregates three years of data, Fox said he expected the stress rating to continue decreasing.

At the work session meeting Monday night, Trustee Vincent Grasso noted that certain state mandates imposed on local municipalities are not subject to the tax cap.

“The retirement system is not subject to the tax cap, no,” Fox said to Grasso. “Nor is the medical — NYSHIP.”

Fox said that the village’s New York State Health Insurance Program costs increased between 10 and 11 percent in the current spending plan.

The board of trustees will present the final draft of the budget on Tuesday, April 11, at 7 p.m., after a public hearing on a proposed local law.