Plaza presents new budget

Plaza presents new budget

The Village of Great Neck Plaza Board of Trustees unveiled a proposed $5.3 million budget for 2012 last week, which represented a $364,520 decrease from a year ago and the fifth consecutive year that there would not be an increase in property taxes.

“Our budget is going down,” Village of Great Neck Plaza Mayor Jean Celender said during the board’s regular meeting at Village Hall. “We’re spending less primarily because things like our traffic calming projects are done.”

“It’s more of the same,” she added. “It’s a zero-percent increase in taxes, no tax increase again.”

Village of Great Neck Plaza Trustee Gerald Schneiderman expressed his pleasure with the $5,307,908 budget by holding up his left hand and extending all five fingers to denote the half decade since the village raised property taxes.

The trustees are scheduled to discuss and vote on the budget during their meeting at village hall on Wed. Jan. 18 at 8 p.m.

Along with the budget discussion, the board will also hold a public hearing at its next meeting regarding the adoption of the Great Neck Vigilant Fire Company’s 2012 budget.

“This is a budget that we get from Vigilant, which we do discuss with them, but there’s only a certain amount of control we have over it,” Celender said.

As of last week, Celender said Vigilant had not provided the board with a copy of its new budget, but the mayor said she expected to receive one soon.

“We expect it by the next meeting,” Celender said. “Obviously, if we don’t have a contract we aren’t going to be able to vote on it, but we just authorized a public hearing in anticipation of getting it.”

Vigilant provides ambulance service to all villages north of the Long Island Rail Road, and fire protection to the villages of Great Neck Estates, Great Neck Plaza and Kensington.

“None of the villages have signed, except the Town of North Hempstead because their budget was adopted earlier,” Celender said. “I think they’ve signed their contract, but none of the incorporated villages have signed yet because contracts haven’t gone out to any of us yet.”

Celender said she attended a meeting with the fire company’s board of trustees and other local officials last month to discuss the new contract.

In its own 2012 budget, Great Neck Plaza accounted for $947,000 under its “fire contract” category.

Village of Great Neck Plaza Clerk/Treasurer Patricia O’Byrne said $901,000 in the village budget is for Vigilant’s 2012 contract, and the other $46,000 is money owed from last year.

“We know the number. They’ve adopted their budget so we’ve included it,” Celender said of Vigilant. “That number (in Great Neck Plaza’s budget) includes not only 2012, but the 2011 (payment), which was in arears that we now paid, but wasn’t in the 2011 budget. So, that’s why that number’s slightly higher.”

Celender said that Vigilant’s 2012 budget “went down slightly” and includes a decrease of about $5,000.

“They are showing a reduction and they’ve worked hard to try to bid out certain contract services, bring things down as much as they can,” Celender said. “Certain equipment fell out. There were other items that were beyond their control, which went up more than they anticipated.”

The mayor said she expected a “more significant” decrease in the budget of about 2 1/2 percent, but the fire company came in with a less than 1-percent reduction in 2012.

Celender said she was still pleased with what she has seen so far from Vigilant.

“This year, they worked hard,” Celender said. “They were going to bring it in for even less, but there is a decrease and so that’s to be commended.”

“In this economy, to see an entity come with a decrease in their budget, albeit even a small one, we’re happy that they sharpened their pencils and they understand that we’re all under the gun to come in with this maximum 2-percent tax for the governor’s plan.”

Vigilant’s budget has historically been paid by a 70/30 split between fire and ambulance service, respectively.

The fire company’s accountant recommended a change for villages to pay a 62/38 split three years ago, which provoked resistance from residents and government officials in the villages of Great Neck Estates, Great Neck Plaza and Kensington.

In 2009, every village signed a deal with Vigilant with the understanding that in 2010 the proportion paid for fire and ambulance would switch to 62/38. The modification would have cost the northern villages without fire protection, more for ambulance service.

“Nothing was done with the allocation,” Celender said of the 2012 contract. “We tried to go down that road and we had an impasse for quite a long time.”

“When the residents were hollering that they ‘loved Vigilant’ and they want us to keep Vigilant and not to try to do anything we just said, if this is what the residents want …”

Celender said that local mayors were still working with Vigilant officials to rein in spending.

“We just try to work with them and they are understanding that the villages are under a tough scenario with this cap and with the economy and with all of us trying to do more with less,” Celender said.

David Weiss, chairman of Vigilant’s board of trustees, did not return repeated telephone calls and e-mails for comment on this story.

Vigilant’s new budget went into effect on Jan. 1 and will run until Dec. 31, 2012.

“A reduction is good,” Celender said. “Therefore, we’d like to get moving to sign the contract.”

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